Art history

The world of art cannot be underestimated, as it is referred to particular social and aesthetical themes in evidence within the society at all times. The talent of Jean-François Millet has plenty to talk about.  His canvas Man with a Hoe impresses by its live representation of a peasant’s life. It is a vivid picture of everyday life. Produced in 1863, it created a furore among the rest of art critics and French painters on the whole. It was an era of industrial breakthrough which overwhelmed the idea of judging paintings through industrial perspective.[1] It is no wonder, then, why the impasto and strokes on the picture are so ostensive and full of appropriate play of colors. Millet could do a realistic look on French life on the example of one ordinary man staying in the field.

First of all, the painting should be valued through its aesthetical performance. The artistic philosophy preached by Millet provides a scope of assumptions on his painting. Man with a Hoe is a realistic representation of religious fatalism by the artist.[2] It should be understood through the philosophy of peoples’ bearing their burden throughout life. Moreover, Millet’s views on this particular aspect were established on his frequent rambles afield in the childhood.[3] This is why when taking a look at the picture at The Getty Center, one sees the dreams of the painter coming from his childhood. It is especially seen on manipulations with colors on the back of a spacious field. The composition is patterned by genuinely Millet’s style. The characteristic impasto is more underlined on the figure of a peasant. It is the main and the most spectacular, so to speak, detail of the picture.

Inspired by the Bible and Virgil’s works, Millet could not drop a figure of man out.[4] In this feature he showed the paramount destination of each person. The field symbolizes life that needs to be ploughed, as life is not a bed of roses. Thus, the background of the picture is not vague. It highlights a line of horizon distinguishing between land and sky. Here, paint is also explicitly dabbed on canvas. The impasto maintained in overall representation of the picture impresses by concreteness of each stroke through thick and heavy brushstrokes.

The political value of the picture is seen in the way it represents the marginal layers of the society. It is not similar to Parisian bourgeoisie. It is a straightforward delineation of the main human powers which drive the mechanism of societal life and economical progress in the rural areas. However, due to this aspect of the picture Millet was highly criticized in the society. The picture has no parallels to a new perspective look at the social life deepened into industrial progress. It reminded most of the critics some Socialist motives.[5] Taking a glimpse at how Millet highlighted the person of an ordinary brutish man, Parisian secular elite could not give him high marks during the Salon in Paris because of the main idea in the picture.[6] He was then appreciated as an artist reconsidered in terms of the “history of taste.”[7]

Thus, the colors, the composition, the impasto, and the style of Millet made him different as evidenced on the example of Man with a Hoe. The artistic and political value of the picture added points on extravagance and uniqueness to its entire and inimitable representation.


Herbert, Robert L. Millet Reconsidered. Chicago, IL: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1966.

—. Millet Revisited – I. London: The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd., 1962.

Millet, Jean-François. Man with a Hoe. The Getty Center, Los Angeles, 2010, (Accessed 24 May, 2010).

[1]Man with a Hoe, produced byJean-François Millet, (Los Angeles: The Getty Center, 2010), (Accessed 24 May, 2010).
[2] Man with a Hoe.
[3] Robert L. Herbert, Millet Reconsidered (Chicago, IL: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1966), 29.
[4] Herbert, 29.
[5] Man with a Hoe.
[6] Man with a Hoe.
[7] Robert L. Herbert, Millet Revisited – I, (London: The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd., 1962), 294.

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