Shepherd Tending His Flock
The son of farmers, Millet understood both the reassuring cycle of the seasons and the frightening prospect of ruin at nature’s whim. From the late 1840s, he dedicated his career to a simultaneously heroic and bleak depiction of the peasants of Barbizon, the farming community outside Paris where he lived. Millet’s uncompromising representation of the French peasantry earned him the scorn of conservative critics. In this painting, Millet endows the shepherd with an imposing monumentality, bringing him to the foreground of the image, where he looms above the horizon line. Yet the figure hunches over his staff, his nearly featureless face gape-mouthed, perhaps with exhaustion or pain. And while Millet’s shepherd tends a large flock, the parched yellow and brown grass in the foreground has been interpreted as a suggestion of future scarcity. Other scholars have offered religious readings of the image, likening the shepherd to Christ.
- Artist: Jean-François Millet, French, 1814-1875
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Place Made: Europe
- Dates: early 1860s
- Dimensions: 32 3/16 x 39 9/16 in. (81.8 x 100.5 cm) Frame: 41 1/2 x 49 in. (105.4 x 124.5 cm) (show scale)
- Signature: Signed lower right: "J. F. Millet"
- Collections:European Art
- Museum Location: This item is not on view
- Accession Number: 21.31
- Credit Line: Bequest of William H. Herriman
- Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
- Caption: Jean-François Millet (French, 1814-1875). Shepherd Tending His Flock, early 1860s. Oil on canvas, 32 3/16 x 39 9/16 in. (81.8 x 100.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of William H. Herriman, 21.31
- Record Completeness: Best (84%)