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Estelle M. Hurll

Since the death of Millet, in 1875, much that is interesting and valuable has been written of his life and work. The first biography of the painter was that by his friend Sensier, in a large illustrated volume whose contents have been made familiar to English readers by an abridged translation published in this country simultaneously with the issue of the French edition.

The distinctive features of Millet's art are so marked that the most inexperienced observer easily identifies his work. As a painter of rustic subjects, he is unlike any other artists who have entered the same field, even those who have taken his own themes. We get at the heart of the matter when we say that Millet derived his art directly from nature.

Portrait frontispiece, a life-size crayon made by Millet in 1847 and given to his friend Charlier. It afterwards became the property of Sensier.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where the sea forms a narrow channel separating the British Isles from the European continent, lies that part of France known as the old province of Normandy. There is here a very dangerous and precipitous coast lined with granite cliffs. The villages along the sea produce a hardy race of peasants who make bold fishermen on the water and thrifty farmers on the land.

Companions in the studio of Delaroche:—
Charles François Hébert (1817- ).
Jalabert (1819- ).
Thomas Couture (1815-1879).
Edouard Frère (1819-1886).
Adolphe Yvon (1817- ).
Antigna (1818-1878).
Prosper Louis Roux (1817- ).

In the picture we have been examining we have seen something of the outdoor life of the French peasants, and now we are shown the interior of one of their houses, where a Knitting Lesson is being given. The girls of the French peasantry are taught only the plainest kinds of needlework. They have to begin to make themselves useful very early in life, and knitting is a matter of special importance. In these large families many pairs of stockings are needed, and all must be homemade. This is work which the little girls can do while the mother is busy with heavier labors.

All through the years of Millet's life and work in Barbizon, his thoughts used to turn often to the little village in Normandy where he spent his youth. His early life in the fields impressed upon his memory all the out-of-door sights peculiar to his native province. The customs of peasants in France differ in the various provinces just as do ours in the various states. Some of the household utensils in Millet's childhood's home were such as he never saw elsewhere, and always remembered with pleasure.

In the picture called The Potato Planters we are reminded at once of the peasants we have already seen in Going to Work. We see here married people a few years older than the young people of the other picture working together in the fields.

Though the peasant women of France have so large a share in the laborious out-of-door work on the farms, they are not unfitted for domestic duties. In the long winter evenings they devote themselves to more distinctly woman's tasks, knitting and sewing, sometimes even spinning and weaving. Their housekeeping is very simple, for they live frugally, but they know how to make the home comfortable. Many modern inventions are still unknown to them, and we should think their customs very primitive, but on this account they are perhaps even more picturesque.

Many years ago the early English poet, Sir Philip Sidney, wrote a book about an imaginary country called Arcadia, noted for the sweetness of the air and the gentle manners of the people. As he described the beauties of the scenery there, he told of "meadows enamelled with all sorts of eye-pleasing flowers; each pasture stored with sheep feeding with sober security; here a shepherd's boy piping as though he should never be old; there a young shepherdess knitting and withal singing, and it seemed that her voice comforted her hands to work, and her hands kept time to her voice-music."

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