Jean-François Millet: Calling Home the Cattle (late 1850s)

This painting brings back fond memories of my grandparent’s small farm and the people who shaped my childhood. If I shut my eyes and unplug the electronics, I can feel the utter peace of the twilight hillside at the foot of the Great Smokey Mountains. It is nearing sunset, and Grandaddy brings the cows up from the boggy creek bottom to the safe, dry barn. Always last comes Bruno, the larger than life black bull whose presence  made us cousins run for the nearest fence line, squealing in mock terror. Yet somehow we grow accustomed to the same spectre each twilight; atop that great fierce beast sits Grandaddy, smiling.

They were both special. 🙂

Screenshot_2018-11-05 millet, jean-franois calling ho animals sotheby's n09940lot96n86en
Jean-François Millet, (1814-1875), CALLING HOME THE CATTLE, stamped J.F.M (lower right), oil on panel, 15 by 11 in., 38.1 by 27.9 cm., Source: Sotheby’s

Who Is Jean-François Millet ?

French plowman, painter, engraver and draftsperson,  Jean-François Millet (1814 – 1875) is one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France. He is noted for pastoral scenes of farmers and animals and is also part of the Realism art movement. (2)

“Shimmering Tapestry of Half-light”

7Screenshot_2018-11-05 millet, jean-franois calling ho animals sotheby's n09940lot96n86en

Sotheby’s says Millet’s Calling Home the Cattle ,painted in the late 1850s, shows Millet answering the problem of “capturing the magnificent, fleeting, effects as a fading sunset” which “absorbs man, animals and landscape alike into a shimmering tapestry of half-light.” (1)

Sotheby’s continues:

“Uncertain edges, abrupt foreshortening, impossible distances, and undefinable colors endow the scene with an ineffable calm amid mystery.  Two distinct colors shape this world; the heavy grey of Apremont granite and the rich red of the now-absent sun permeate every element, underlining the moody Romanticism out of which Millet crafted his Realism in this critical decade.”

Commonplace Grandeur

“The event was a commonplace one — the village herdsman calling together the small troop of cows which he managed on behalf of the various Barbizon households who owned animals but lacked the land to graze them – but it seized Millet’s imagination during his first years in the village and the theme held his attention for nearly twenty years as he sought a balance between line and color that could convey the grandeur of the broad Plain of Chailly at twilight.”     Source: Sotheby’s

Calling Home the Cattle

is an unfinished picture, thus unsigned. 

Instead, it is stamped at lower right

with a red cachet of the artist’s initials J.F.M.

Read more about the interesting history of this version of Calling the Cattle Home from the Sotheby’s Catalogue note HERE.

Click for Enlarged Detail:

Jean-François Millet, (1814-1875), CALLING HOME THE CATTLE, stamped J.F.M (lower right), oil on panel, 15 by 11 in., 38.1 by 27.9 cm., Source: Sotheby’s

 

Jean-François Millet, (1814-1875), CALLING HOME THE CATTLE, stamped J.F.M (lower right), oil on panel, 15 by 11 in., 38.1 by 27.9 cm., Source: Sotheby’s

Details

Provenance

  • Probably, Pierre Millet, Boston (the artist’s brother, sold on behalf of the artist’s widow)
  • Francis Bartlett, Boston (by 1891)
  • Herbert M. Sears, son-in-law of above, by descent (1928)
  • Mrs. Phyllis Tuckerman, Jr., neé Sears, by descent (by circa 1942)
  • Thence by descent through the family to the present owner

Sources

  1. Sotheby’s,  “Jean-François Millet, (1814-1875), CALLING HOME THE CATTLE”, http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/european-art-n09940/lot.38.html ,(accessed 5 Nov 2018).
  2. Wikipedia contributors, “Jean-François Millet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Millet&oldid=867462299 (accessed November 5, 2018).

Thanks for Reading! 🙂

The End

 

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