It was Jacque, who had followed Diaz de la Pena's advice who induced Millet to accompany him to this area. Millet, born in 1814 in the Manche region, was the son of a farmer who had decided to become an artist.
Admiring Delacroix, he studied with Delaroche and was soon nicknamed the "man of the forest" by his fellow-pupils. he first painted genre scenes and nudes and his encounter with Jacque soon had some deep influence over his destiny.
In 1847, he started to paint workers and farming scenes before coming to Barbizon where the environment much suited him. There he felt a farmer again and glorified his likes with great passion.
Millet, who was not involved in any of the revolutionary movements that occurred in France, remained 27 years in Barbizon where he used to scour the forest almost every day. He died there after becoming with Théodore Rousseau and Charles-François Daubigny one of the leaders of the school of Barbizon which had also in its ranks painters like Claude d'Aligny, Auguste Allongé, Auguste Anastasi, Ion Andreescu, Léon Belly, Edouard Bertin, Rosa Bonheur, Jacques Raymond Brascassat, Jules Breton, Louis Cabat, Alexandre Calame, Charles Ferdinand Ceramano, Léonce Chabry, Jean Ferdinand Chaigneau, Eugène Ciceri, César et Xavier de Cock, Giovanni Costa, Isidore Dagnan, Karl Daubigny, Alexandre Decamps, Alexandre Defaux, Hippolyte Camille Delpy, Alexandre Desgoffe, Julien Dupré, Victor Dupré, Constant Dutilleux, Camille Flers, Georges Gassies, Charles-Jean Georget, Nicolae Grigorescu, Adolphe Hervier, William Hunt, George Inness, Godefroy Jadin, Eugène Jettel, Alfred de Knyf, Emile Charles Lambinet, Eugène Lavieille, Gabriel Hippolyte Lebas, Paul Louchet, Camille Magnus, Emile van Marcke de Lummen, François Nazon, Laszlo de Paal, Léon Richet, Edmond de Schampheleer, David Sutter, Léon Tanzi, Etienne Maxime Vallée, Paul Vernon, Alexandre René Véron, Louis Watelin and Félix Ziem.
One should also stress the role of Daubigny who had so much influence over Impressionist painters while Millet much impressed Van Gogh. Daubigny was above all the painter of ponds and rivers and was one of the first artists to have a small boat fitted as a floating studio.
It was in 1857 that Millet exhibited his painting "The Gleaners" at the Paris Salon. Two years later he achieved his famous work "l'Angélus".
Influenced by Poussin and Courbet, Millet was interested in showing the plains seen from Barbizon as well as farmers at work. He used to say that he was only seeing the sky and the land separated by the horizon and tried to reconcile man with nature through hard work. With the years, his style became more vaporous, his forms more simple and his palette clearer probably because he had achieved fame and had become a rich man.
The school of Barbizon was also proud to have Daumier in its ranks and this painter was often compared with Millet concerning his style and his drawing. Daumier showed a keen interest in the rural world and some of his works can be mistaken with those of Millet.
Millet became much admired in the U.S at the end of his life as well as other painters from Barbizon whose works were bought in quantities by many American collectors. Still, the major feat of the school of Barbizon was its influence over the pioneers of Impressionnism such as, Monet, Sisley, Bazille and Renoir who went to work in Barbizon in 1863 as well as Pissarro in 1865.
Hunter and his dog near a mill
It was in this area that Monet notably found an ideal site for his "Déjeuner sur l'herbe". Then Cézanne and Seurat came there in the early 1880's while Van Gogh became much inspired by Millet's prints to produce many drawings and copies.
With the death of Millet at 61 on January 20th 1875 and that of Corot and Barye the same year, the School of Barbizon found it hard to survive. Diaz died in 1876, Courbet in 1877, Daubigny in 1878 while Jacque and Jules Dupré remained the last leaders of that movement. Meanwhile, Impressionist was paving the way to its success at the expense of the legendary school of Barbizon which was forgotten until the early 1920's.