Had a loverly few days in Barbizon visiting friends. What a bonus to discover on arrival it is a town stepped in artistic history.
Maison Atelier de Jean-Francois Millet, a small museum that was once the artist home, is stuffed with paintings and drawings. From the artist own easel and casts of human limbs and animals for drawing aids to skulls and may art works adorning the walls it is a real treasure chest. Photos and drawn portraits on the wall showed that Barbizon had been visited by Carrot, Monet, Cezzanne, Renoir to name a small fraction of artist that had worked with Barbizon and surrounds as the heart of there work in the 19th century.
Millet himself made many drawings of every day people at work and rest. He documented the life’s of village peasants mostly in pastel with a black crayon. His drawings pay attention to the mood of their subjects. Some the workers look tiered in the fields with ruddy hands, sore looking feet and sunken faces sitting in the heat of the day. He shows horses being taken to water at sunset. There frames show evidence of caring great loads on there backs and pulling carts and plows.
Other drawings are of happy cubby toddlers and dotting mothers. Many of which are of his own family. He captures there movement and gestures beautifully. He favours curvaceous lines. His figures often have a hard out line around them. Even in a full sitting with back ground drawn in.
The pallet is always muted and earthy which adds to the feel of the life of the subjects who work on the land.
Time for a little bit of wikipedia research:
The Barbizon School of painters (1830-1870) was headed by Jean-Francois Millet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Carot, Theodore Rousseau and Charles-Francois Daubigny. They where part of an art movement towards realism in art. They balanced out the concurrent romantic movement somewhat by striving to depict the truth rather than the idealised. ( I did think I spotted a Blake on the wall but it wasn’t marked.)
In 1824 John Constable exhibited at the Salon de Paris. This spurred artist to think of the natural scene as the subject rather than the back drop to mythical or historical events. During the Revolutions of 1848 a group of artists gathered i Barbizon to follow Constables ideas making the French landscape a feature of the Barbizon School. Millet added a human element to his work with his sensitive and compassionate portrayal of peasant life. Most well know is ‘The Gleaners’ (1857) showing three women working a t harvest. Gleaners where poor people permitted to gather the grain that has fallen to the floor after harvest. To emphasise their anonymity and marginalised position, he hides there faces.
During the 1860’s the Babizon painters attracted the attention of a younger generation of artists studying in Paris. These young artist visited and painted the area themeless. Amongst them , Monet, Renoir, Siley and Bazille. There signature plain air style would later become known as Impressionism.
Speaking of Monet and Impressionism I was delighted to arrive in Paris Gare du Nord on the euro star. It felt like I was disembarking into Monet paintings of the station. Even though later on I discovered he painted Gare Saint Lazier it felt at the time like all that was missing where the steam trains and there towing plumbs of steam. Tres cool.
I was also taken with the sculptures of Melanie Quentine. Although not a style I am usually drawn to, after studying art for a year now as I have been doing I have an appreciation for these sensual female nudes I would not have perviously had. There is a wonderful balance in the curbs of the figures. For instance the curb of hip will will be echoed in the opposite curb of the throat in a standing figure. A smooth s shape can be drawn between the two with the eye. All here sculptures have a similar flow to them. They are as a collective a celebration of female beauty.
The two drawing I made after her work are in red biro and two tones of grey felt tip. Three of the four pens I found in the handbag. I tried to think tonal and identify the light and shadows. The first drawing is from a sculpture and the second from one of her beautiful life drawings. I was struck by how much she could depict with such minimal lines. They are made on grey paper wish lack and white chalk.
Below are those drawings plus a few more sketches I managed to find time for on the trip.