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Paris,"The Man of the Woods"

"It was a Saturday in January that I arrived in Paris in the evening, in the snow; the glow of the street lamps almost extinguished by the fog, the immense number of horses and carriages which collided or crossed each other, the narrow streets, the smell and the air of Paris, took me to the head and to the heart, to the point of suffocating me.... 

It was thus that I landed in Paris; without cursing him, with the terror of not understanding anything about his material and spiritual life, and also with the desire and the will to see these famous masters of whom I had been told so much and of whom I had glimpsed some scraps at the museum of Cherbourg."

This is how, in January 1837, the young Millet arrived in Paris where he enrolled in the studio of Paul Delaroche, a "fashionable" painter of historical paintings. He stood out for his appearance, which was even more wild than rustic, and his companions gave him the nickname "the man of the woods".

Despite a first success at the Salon du Louvre where Millet exhibited a portrait, for lack of money, he returned to Cherbourg where he settled as a portrait painter. In 1841, he married Pauline-Virginie Ono and returned to live with her in Paris. In fragile health, his wife died three years later. Very tried, Millet returned to Cherbourg which he left definitively in 1845, with Catherine Lemaire, a servant who had become his companion and who would never leave him.

Millet and Catherine Lemaire moved to Paris in December 1845. Millet's "flowery period" began. 

"Until 1847, Millet painted exterior life, human nudity in what is most unconscious, the almost vegetative life of beings letting existence flow like the flood of oblivion; he painted not the soul and his torments, as he did later, but living forms, and he expressed them with the alluring charm of material beauty, in their movement as in their rest. Artists called him the master of the nude". *

Appellation that offended Millet. Not wanting to be condemned as such, he said to his wife: 

"I will never paint this again; life will be even harder, you will suffer, but I will be free and I will accomplish what has been on my mind for a long time".

And this is how he enters into rustic art.

* Alfred Sensier, The life and work of Jean-François Millet.

femme nue couchée.jpg

Jean-François Millet, Reclining Naked Woman,

between 1844 and 1845, Musée d'Orsay Paris

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