Jean-François Millet


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.

Jean-François Millet
French; 1814–1875 
The Potato Harvest, ca. 1853 
Black and white chalk