Page:François-Millet.djvu/155

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JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET

was in danger of losing his sight. All this explains some characteristics of his painting and especially his rather murky light. This is especially noticeable in some of his most celebrated pictures, like the Gleaners, in which the illumination should be intense. About,, who was a warm partisan of Millet did not fail to remark this fault but he excused it or wittily explained it in his Salon of 1857. " The August sun/' he said, "sheds a powerful warmth upon the canvas, but you will not surprise any of these capricious rays which gambol like holiday schoolboys in pictures by Diaz ; this is a grave sunshine which ripens wheat and makes men sweat and does not waste its time in frolics." But this " grave sunshine/' too grave indeed has not in reality the overwhelming splendour which is supposed by the three panting figures bowed above the burned ears of wheat ; and Millet would not have failed to give it that splendour and so to impart the full value to his thought if he had been able. It is surprising that neither this need of avoiding a strong light which he felt both in his eyesight and in his mind, nor yet his melancholy should have led

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