top of page

Millet in Barbizon

Came 1849 and the cholera epidemic. Millet, Catherine Lemaire and their three children left with the family of Charles Jacque to seek refuge at the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau, in Barbizon, a small hamlet on the plain of Chailly where painters had already come to work "on the motif".

"We have taken, Jacque and I, the determination to stay here for some time, and we have consequently rented a house for each of us. The prices are excessively different from those in Paris; and as, if there is need, we can get there very quickly, and besides, the country being superbly beautiful, we will work more quietly than in Paris and perhaps we will do better things. All in all, we have the desire to stay here for a while." .*

Left for a few weeks, he will spend the rest of his life there and it is there that he will produce most of his work. There he will find a place, a landscape, friends, a hamlet of peasants who reminded him of his native village and an atmosphere of painters, who, just like him, struggled to impose themselves in a current, which was later called "The Barbizon School".

"If you see how beautiful the forest is! I run there sometimes at the end of the day and after my day's work, and each time I come back crushed. I find myself really scared. I don't know what those beggar trees are saying to each other, but they're saying something to each other that we don't understand, because we don't speak the same language, that's it. everything. I just think they make little puns".

On his arrival, he rents a small house and a barn where he sets up his workshop. A few years later, he annexed to the studio the two rooms that still exist, the dining room and the kitchen (formerly Charles Jacque's studio). There is no longer any trace of the small house which fell into ruin.

In this hamlet of lumberjacks and poor ploughmen, he will live between his workshop and his vegetable garden, will raise his nine children and will never stop thinking about the links between man and nature. And it was in Barbizon that he became the painter he wanted to be, the peasant painter. It was this period that made the worldwide reputation of the author of the Angelus.

Very weakened, he died on January 20, 1875 in this house. Three weeks earlier, the priest had agreed to marry him religiously to Catherine Lemaire, the mother of his nine children, whom he had married civilly in 1853, a few months after his mother's death.

* First letter from Millet to Sensier de Barbizon, June 28, 1849.


Jean-François Millet, The Angelus, Musée d'Orsay

bottom of page