Sensier saw what seems to have been the first sketch
for "The Sower" as early as 1847, and it existed long before that, while
"The Winnower" was exhibited in 1848; and the overheard conversation is
said to have taken place in 1849. There was nothing indecent or immoral
in Millet's early work, and the best proof that he felt no moral
reprobation for the painting of the nude--as what true painter,
especially in France, ever did?--is that he returned to it in the height
of his power and, in the picture of the little "Goose Girl" (Pl. 1) by
the brook side, her slim, young body bared for the bath, produced the
loveliest of his works. No, what happened to Millet in 1849 was simply
that he resolved to do no more pot-boiling, to consult no one's taste
but his own, to paint what he pleased and as he pleased, if he starved
for it. He went to Barbizon for a summer's holiday and to escape the
cholera. He stayed there because living was cheap and the place was
healthful, and because he could find there the models and the subjects
on which he built his highly abstract and ideal art.
[Illustration: Plate 3.--Millet. "The Gleaners."
In the Louvre.]
At Barbizon he neither resumed the costume nor led the life of a
peasant. He wore sabots, as hundreds of other artists have done, before
and since, when living in the country in France.