French Realist Painter & the Founder of Barbizon School – Jean-Francois Millet

French painter, Jean-Francois Millet or simply, Jean Millet, was born in Gruchy, in Greville- Hague, Normandy, on October 04, 1814, to peasants Jean-Louis-Nicolas and Aimée-Henriette-Adélaïde Henry Millet. With an even blend of 'Naturalistic' and 'Realistic' portraits, Jean exhibited a precocious streak for painting.

His early education of Latin and some key authors was completed under the tutelage of a couple of local practices. At twenty-one, in 1833, he thought two years training under Paul Dumouchel, a portrait painter, at Cherbourg. Jean's next mentor was Lucien-Théophile Langlois, in the same city. With a government grant of 600 francs, the artist moved to Paris, by 1837, where he studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His early days were full of hardships, as he ended a state of penury for years. In 1839, his grant was annulled, followed by the approval of his first submission at the Salon.

For the next three years beginning 1840, Jean Millet shuffled between Paris and Cherbourg, following the events, such as the acceptance of his first painting (a portrait) at the Salon in 1840, his marriage to Pauline-Virginie Ono in 1841, a rather early death of his wife in 1843, and rejected paintings at the Salon the same year. Later, Jean met Catherine Lemaire and migrated with her to Le Havre in 1845, where he painted several portraits. Soon after, he left for Paris.

Millet tasted success only in 1847 with his creations, "Oedipus Taken down from the Tree," followed by "Winnower (1848)." He became a member of the French Academy in 1847 and co-founded the Barbizon school, in partnership with his artist friends, Constant Troyon, Narcisse Diaz, Charles Jacque, and Théodore Rousseau. The 1850s saw Jean exhibit spectacular masterpieces sequentially, such as "Harvesters (1849)," "Haymakers (1850)," Shepherdess Sitting at the Edge of the Forest, "" The Sower (1850), "" Sheep-shearers " ), Peasant grafting a tree (1855), The Gleaners (1857), and The Angelus (1857-59). His most controversial painting was the "Man with a Hoe."

By 1849, Jean had settled down with Catherine and their nine kids in Barbizon. The artist put his heart and soul for three long years (1850-1853) in the creation of "Harvester Resting," his only dated painting. This work reflects Jean-Francois' shift from simple peasant portraits to 'Realism' and captured their living state and destitute conditions. This painting earned him a second-class gold medal at the Salon in 1853. The artist married Catherine on January 03, 1853.

Although, Millet had his limitations with his rather inept technique, his painting "L'homme a la houe" compelled Edwin Markham to write a much popular poem, "The Man with the Hoe (1898)." Jean was an inspiration to several competent artists, including Vincent Van Gough and Seurat. In 1868, he was bestowed with Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, followed by his appointed as a Salon jury member in 1870. The same year, the Miletts fled to Cherbourg and Gréville, owed to the Franco-Prussian War. The family returned to Barbizon in late 1871. The last years of Millet's life were financially comfortable, although his deteriorating health precluded him from completing some Government commissions. He died at the age of sixty, on January 20, 1875. His close friend Alfred Sensier, a bureaucrat has documented Jean's journey of Life.