Jean-François MilletStudy of Peasants at Work© RMN
"You know the first drawing I ever did back home, without master, model or guide: it is still there in my studio, I have never done anything since." This confession - real or invented - by Jean-François Millet quoted by his first biographer, Alfred Sensier (La vie et l'oeuvre de Jean-François Millet
, Paris, 1881, p. 40) was intended to establish nature-study and direct observation as the true path to realism. It intentionally masked the artist's erudition, his meditations on the works of the masters - after whom he still drew late into his career - and the importance of studio studies; the carefully thought-out and composed preliminaries to Salon paintings. This presentation of some fifty drawings, taken from the Museum collections, allows visitors to appreciate the complexity of Millet's work as a draughtsman and the artist's crucial role in the development of French drawing in the mid-19th century.
Marie-Pierre Salé, curator, Musée d'Orsay.