M. Millet was an accomplished musician, a skilful modeller in clay, and a clever carver in wood—a man of pure life. Mme. Millet was a devoted mother, but, by the strange custom of the country, she lived, M. Sensier says, “ dans le travail ”—the slave of the family.
Staley's description is not hard to believe. What is challenging to grasp is the ferocious love the artist Millet made visible in his canvases, love for this class of people, this French landscape. "The Gleaners," is a well-known example of Millet's work. It shows women stooping in harvested fields to gather the dropped grain, deliberately, as an act of charity, left for them to collect.
We have more examples we copied below. First, a woman churning butter. The cat is ingratiating itself with the possessor of such a nice treat. Pausing in the doorway a chicken with her babies considers the implications of the scene. One imagines Millet just explaining: this is what I saw.
Turning away from that hard stone floor, we inspect a more urban scene. "Cat at the Window", (c.1857) is riveting not for the cat, not for the woman wakened, not for the convincingly intimate interior. "Cat at the Window" is wonderful for the shadow on the covered floor. The light portrayed, in a basically monochrome canvas, is staggering.
What Millet paints is love.