A Look at Van Gogh Museum’s Jean-François Millet Exhibition

Van Gogh Museum tour

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam city is hosting an art show devoted to French artist, Jean-François Millet. It shows the innovative nature of Millet’s work and the impact he had on the modern-style art globally. He had an influence on numerous modern artists, which include Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Kazimir Malevich, and Winslow Homer.

“To me, […] Millet is that essential modern painter who opened the horizon to many.”

Those were the words of Vincent, contained in a letter he wrote to brother Theo van Gogh dated February 1884. Read on to learn more about Millet’s influence on others and know what to expect from the exhibition when on a Van Gogh Museum tour.

The Inspiring Peasant Life Painter

Millet had a tumultuous yet successful career. The radical method he used for painting was criticized, and so was his peasant life depiction. The latter invited a social criticism, which pertained to what that depiction seemed to suggest. Critics and other painters saw him as the one who painted the harsh life of agricultural workers. After his demise, it did not take long for France to embrace Millet as a French national hero, an image he earned for the way in which he portrayed rural life in the country. That image was partly because of his internationally successful and romanticized biography, published back in 1881.

Despite the criticism, it has to be noted that Millet’s work left an indelible impression on other painters who were French or were working and living in the nation. One such artist was Vincent van Gogh, whose painting titled ‘The Potato Eaters’ was inspired by Millet’s ‘Prayer for the Potato Crop’. Many artists would feel grateful to Millet for painting the latter and to Van Gogh for inspiring them with the former work. Interestingly, it was the Millet painting that led to Van Gogh’s unexpected return to this activity.

How Millet Inspired Others

Today’s people may not remember Millet, and his artworks are often viewed as conventional rather than those with a modern, progressive style. However, in the late 1800’s, he was among the best-known artists. Many of Millet’s works were reproduced, and many statues were built to honor him. His work created a situation where modern art was likely to occur as a result of it. So, he also earned the praise and admiration of legions of artists the world over.

Millet’s art was praised for diverse causes, which include the following.

  • Ground-breaking compositions;
  • Anti-academic painting technique;
  • Rough brushstrokes;
  • Use of color and materials;
  • Abstract approach towards both composition and form; and,
  • The themes contained in his paintings.

For instance, by depicting agricultural workers from close range and applying a monumental painting style on the canvas, he directly appeals to us. This is because the audience reveres and respects his work. Artists such as Vincent adopted such composition, used by Millet. Vincent saw him as an example, even describing him as Father Millet (Père Millet).

The ‘Jean-François Millet: Sowing the Seeds of Modern Art’ Exhibition

The Van Gogh Museum’s show, which will run through January 12, 2020, shows how ground-breaking Millet’s art was for the time in which he worked. The influence of Millet’s work becomes evident when his drawings, pastels and painters are juxtaposed with artworks by numerous globally known painters.

Many Top Pieces of Art

The show presents 128 artworks, of which most are loaned from private and museum collections from nations like Japan, France, Mexico and the US. The Orsay Museum in Paris loaned “The Angelus”, one of Millet’s most significant and innovative works, to the Dutch national museum. The latter museum is exhibiting that Millet painting from 1859 for the first-ever time for people in Holland.

A different piece, “The Gleaners”, which is part of the Paris museum’s collection, is made available for the Netherlands audience. That painting ignited controversy when it was first exhibited to the audience after its creation. It has been displayed in Holland for the first time after 1988.

Millet’s “The Sower” has not previously left Japan after its acquisition by Kofu’s Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art. Millet’s depiction of an agricultural worker sowing seeds, profoundly influenced Vincent, with the latter embracing that theme for many of his works.

Of the total number of artworks shown at the Dutch museum, 18 pieces are by Vincent and 53 by Millet. The show brings numerous special artworks by the former to Holland, like “The Siesta” and “Evening” to name two.

Millet Exhibition in The Hague

The museum, The Mesdag Collection is hosting another show on Millet through January 05, 2020. The Dutch museum named after Van Gogh has been administering the Hague museum since the year 1990. It explores Millet’s influence on Hague School members such as Willem Roelofs, Jozef Israëls, and Anton Mauve. So both public expositions show his impact on other 19th-century artists.

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