PAINT WHAT YOU KNOW: The Angelus by Jean-François Millet

Aspiring writers are often advised: write
what you know. The same could be said for painters. Paint what you know. This brings
to mind the French artist, Jean-François Millet. Millet was a genre painter
depicting the everyday lives of peasants in rural France.
The fact is, Millet was raised in a farming community doing much of the same
type of work, much of which he later incorporated into his paintings. This
painting, the Angelus depicts two peasants, a man and a woman in a field at
dusk bowing over a basket of potatoes to say a prayer. Nearby is a pitchfork and
cart. There’s a stark contrast between the last brilliance of the sky and the
near silhouettes of the two workers. In the distance is a church steeple. Millet
stated, “The idea for the Angelus came to me because I remembered that my
grandmother hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the
fields always made a stop to say the Angelus prayer for the poor departed.” The
works of Millet had a tremendous influence on Vincent van Gogh who
painted several copies of the artists work. Surrealist painter, Salvador Dali
was obsessed with this particular work from childhood and over his career
painted several interpretations of the Angelus. However Dali insisted the couple weren’t praying over the potatoes but rather the
death of a child. So committed to this idea was Dali, that the painting was
eventually x-rayed revealing, in fact, a previously painted box-like object
surreal indeed. I’m Larry Withers and this has been your 2-Minute
Masterpiece. We hope you’ve enjoyed this video if so:
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