Jean-François Millet was born October 4th 1814 in the village of Gruchy located in northern France. At a young age he was tutored by local priests and was soon after sent to Cherbourg, France to study portrait painting under Paul Dumouchel and Lucien-Théophile Langlois. After studying with his teachers for several years they sent him off to Paris to study art at the Ecole des Beaux- Arts.
Millet studied at the Ecole des Beau-Arts for two years until his scholarship was terminated in 1839. That same year his submission to the Salon of Paris was rejected. Millet then returned to his home in Cherbourg to pursue portrait painting. Upon his return home he met and married Pauline-Virginie Ono and the two of them moved back to Paris. Sadly Ono contracted tuberculosis in 1843 and died later the same year; on top of that his submission to the Salon was rejected the same year. Millet once again moved back to Cherbourg where he painted portraitist and small commissions.
In 1853 Millet moved back to Paris with his new wife Catherine Lemaire. He soon befriended Théodore Rousseau, Narcisse Diaz, and Charles Jacque along with other artists who together would collectively be associated with the Barbizon School. Millet began to receive recognition when his paintings Harvesters and Shepherdess Sitting at the Edge were granted admission to the Salon. Millet's paintings were either loved or hated by viewers at the Salon due to the subject matter he chose to portray. Millet's paintings were mainly centered around portraying the working class citizens of France instead of the more respectable upper class.
Despite his mixed reviews Millet's success grew and he began to receive commissions for private collections all over France. In the 1860's Millet was heavily funded by several patrons pumping out work almost exclusively for them. Through all the commissions he still created work for the Salon and became so greatly looked upon that he was elected to the Salon jury in 1870. His later years were filled with financial success and growing positive recognition. Due to his failing health he was not able to take commissions towards the end of his life leaving him time to focus on his own studies. Millet died January 3rd, 1875 in his home of Cherbourg, France.
By Christian Franzen