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Millet's Workshop


It is here, in this workshop, facing north, that Millet produced his main masterpieces: the Angelus, the Gleaners, the Man with a Hoe, the Sower, the Maternal Precaution, the Spring... Millet has converted over the years into what was initially just a barn. Thus the high bay window, the tiled roof and the floor are the initiative of the painter who had, at first, set up his easel in a rather unhealthy entresol which he called his "toad pit".

In this room, which has remained in the state in which its widow and the heirs of its owner left it, you will be surprised by the impalpable presence of the painter: the very light of his paintings. Because Millet painted scenes in the studio which he recomposed from memories, observations and sketches, dressed mannequins or, most often, live models. He liked, to make them immutable, to stop the gestures of the man at work and, to give them a universal range, to "silhouette" his  characters. A master of chiaroscuro and shaded areas, he also knows how to enhance his painting with delicate tones and refined touches. "Son of a peasant and painter of peasants", he was - with Eugène Delacroix - one of the most cultured artists of his time. A photo of the "Belle Marie", taken by Esparcieux father, keeps the memory of the one who posed - when she was seventeen years old - for the Angelus. It is next to the easel, surmounted by a boat, an evocation of the trawlers that were used in La Hague, in Normandy, the artist's native country and of which he always kept the nostalgia.

To the left of the entrance door, two boards bring together the precursors and contemporaries of this artistic center which an English critic named, to differentiate it from the School of Fontainebleau, School of Barbizon. Among them are the first defenders of Millet, including the éminence grise, Théodore Rousseau, his two American friends from Boston, William Morris Hunt and William Babcock who largely contributed to his international glory, then friends like Diaz, Daubigny, Corot, Jacque, Ziem, Barye, and followers from all over the world join these landscape pioneers. 

On the other side of the door, a plate with the portraits of a new generation of impressionists who, from 1860, took up the torch of the painters of Barbizon.

A collector, Millet had accumulated all sorts of objects. A head from Egyptian antiquity and several small Bruegel the Elder passed through his hands. He was also fond of Japanese prints, medieval scenes, drawings by Delacroix and prints by Rembrandt.

Witnesses to this curiosity are the two folk art treasures (wooden statuettes, one of which belongs to the series "see nothing", "hear nothing", "say nothing"). The presence of these objects for which he had had a crush, helped him to follow his own way. They aim here to reconstitute this "mondo Millet" which makes the charm of the house.

Apart from the faithful copy of the great Théodore Rousseau by Eugène Masson and the copies of two pastels by Millet made by Lucien Lepoittevin, all the works presented in the workshop are originals.

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