Jean-François Millet (French, 1814–1875)
63.5 x 47 cm (25 x 18 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Not On View
Millet’s self-portrait at the age of about twenty-six connects him to advanced art circles in Paris, where he had arrived just three years before from his provincial home. His curled hair and velvet trimmed jacket were practically the uniform of the Romantic circle of French painters, who also favored the intensity of emotion conveyed by Millet’s dark gaze. With a confident hand, the young artist announces his serious intentions, as well as his burgeoning talent.
Millet was born in 1814 in the small farming community of Gruchy, in the Northeastern French region of Normandy. After studying Latin, literature, and other subjects with two village priests, he continued his education as an artist in the nearest city, Cherbourg. At the age of twenty-three, he received a stipend from the city of Cherbourg to move to Paris, where he studied at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His time in Paris was invaluable, but Millet missed the country, and when his scholarship ended he returned to Cherbourg to become a portrait painter. For some time he moved between Normandy and Paris, and eventually he decided to settle in Barbizon, a rural area not far from the capital. The village of Barbizon abuts the Forest of Fontainebleau and the flat agricultural Plain of Chailly. This is where Millet and his family remained for the rest of his life, with the exception of a year spent in Normandy during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and summer trips with his wife to the spa town of Vichy. Nonetheless, Millet visited Paris frequently and remained closely involved with the city’s artistic culture.
Lower left: J. F. Millet
By inheritance from the artist to his brother, Pierre Millet; 1893, sold by Pierre Millet to the MFA for $3000. (Accession Date: June 1, 1893)
Museum purchase with funds donated by contribution