Jean-François Millet

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Jean-François Millet
The Potato Harvest. Verso: Head of a Boy (crossed out)
ca. 1853
Black and white chalk; verso: black chalk.
9 x 13 3/4 inches (229 x 349 mm)
Thaw Collection.

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Signed in black chalk at lower right; "J.F. Millet"

Théodore Rousseau (?); probably his sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 27 April - 2 May 1868, no. 558 ("Une Moisson; paysans chargeant une charette. Desin rehaussé."); Alfred Sensier; his sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 10-12 December 1877, no.232 ("La Récolte des pommes de terre. Dessin au crayon noir. 22 x 34.0 cm."); M. Guébin; probably his sale, 2 March 1881; Antoine Marmontel; his sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 28-29 March 1898, no. 155 ("La Récolte des pommes de terre. Dans un champ, à la nuit tombante, un paysan et sa femme chargent des sacs de pommes de terre sur une brouette. Beau dessin. Signé en bas et à droite: J.F. Millet. 22.0 x 34.0 cm." Bought by Le Senne.); Camille Le Senne; Blumenthal; Count Pecci-Blunt, Rome; Hazlitt Gallery, London; Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, New York.

The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY, "Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection", 2017. Exh. cat., no. 263, repr.
Stampfle, Felice, and Cara D. Denison. Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene V. Thaw. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1975, no. 89.
100 Master drawings from the Morgan Library & Museum. München : Hirmer, 2008, no. 86, repr. [Jennifer Tonkovich]


Urged to make finished drawings by his friend the art dealer Alfred Sensier, the impoverished Millet produced finished vignettes such as this sheet. Sensier referred to Millet's group of drawings of laborers as The Epic of the Fields. Here a couple loads sacks of potatoes onto a wheelbarrow, seemingly at the end of the day. The artist's use of black chalk across the entire surface of the rough paper--which he rubbed for soft effects in the sky and sharpened to outline the figures--renders an atmosphere that integrates the figures in their setting. Respect for rural labor in an increasingly industrialized France is a constant theme in Millet's drawings. -- Exhibition Label, from "Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection"