Jean-François Millet (French, 1814-1875)
oil on fabric, Framed: 67.9 x 59.7 x 10.8 cm (26 3/4 x 23 1/2 x 4 1/4 in.); Unframed: 46 x 38 cm (18 1/16 x 14 15/16 in.). Bequest of Noah L. Butkin 1980.270
Millet and the other members of the Realist movement were renowned for not only producing realistic images, but for typically injecting their pictures with political, spiritual, or social messages. Sensitive to the human psyche and the rise of the bourgeoisie, Millet used a simple, almost monochromatic background to focus attention on the face of Monsieur Martin, a middle-class veterinarian and meat inspector. Indeed, Martin's beard, hair style, clothing, even his common French name, and the fact that he could afford portraits of himself and his wife (now lost) convey that he belonged to the prosperous middle class.
This small portrait shows Millet's extraordinary skill as a painter. He depicted the highlights on Martin's face by adding patches of flat, unblended color, and some of the brushstrokes suggest the loose, quick movement of the artist's hands over the canvas.
Douvres la Délivrande. Réalistes et impressionnistes normands (1961), no. 115, 12 (repr.).
Cherbourg, Musée Thomas-Henry. Jean-François Millet (1964), no. 25.
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André. J.-F. Millet, le portraitiste et le dessinateur (1964-65), no. 1, (F. Cottin collection, Lisieux).
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