Bohemianism and Counter-Culture

Jean-Francois Millet


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Jean-Francois Millet, like Courbet, attempted to show his political leanings through the subjects and style of his paintings by portraying everyday peasants in idyllic settings as a way to attack the upper classes while dignifying the working class.

Millet, born in 1841, grew up in the rural countryside of France. He spent most of his childhood in extreme poverty, living among the working class peasants that he later used as the subjects for his paintings. Millet studied under Paul Delaroche in 1838, and became a Realist, like Courbet. However, unlike Courbet, Millet prefered to paint his subjects with an idyllic gloss in order to criticise the bourgeoisie.


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L'Angelus, painted in 1859, depicts a man and a woman praying to the bells of Angelus, the church near their home. The peasants must work instead of attending church, but still make time to pray. The upper class appears in the background of the painting, in a blur. However, Millet has colored the peasants to look like the ground, portraying them as part of the earth and thus, closer to God. L'Angelus was intended as a social criticism, for the peasants are made to look holy, while the rich upper class is hardly visible in the painting.


Les Glaneuses

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Les Glaneuses, painted in 1857, was also meant as a social criticism. Three peasant woman in the foreground are working hard, and Millet depicts them as holy and dignified by bathing them in a bright light. These women are also close to the same color as the ground, making them appear closer to God than the upper class, which appears faintly in the background. These women represent the struggle of the working class, which works to collect what little the upper class has left for them.

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