Dec 11, 2013

First Steps

First Steps

c. 1859–66

Jean-François Millet

(French, 1814–1875)

Black chalk and pastel on beige laid paper

Support: Beige(1) laid paper, perimeter mounted to beige(1) wove paper

Sheet: 29.5 x 45.9 cm (11 5/8 x 18 1/16 in.); Secondary Support: 36 x 50.9 cm (14 3/16 x 20 1/16 in.)

Gift of Mrs. Thomas H. Jones, Sr. 1962.407


Did you know?

At the time this drawing was made, many critics disparaged Millet's depictions of peasants as politically radical.


In the 1860s Jean-François Millet began to add pastel to his black chalk drawings of peasants and rural life, with the hope that the addition of color would make his monochromatic drawings more marketable. Between 1865 and 1869, he worked almost exclusively in pastel, producing more than 100 works. The taste for “enhanced” or “pastelled drawings,” as Millet described them, grew among collectors and artists, and inspired a revival of the medium in the 1870s and 1880s. Here, in a fenced-in garden behind a house, parents encourage their child to walk for the first time. Delicate passages of blue, green, yellow, and red enliven the composition.

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