Millet wrote to his patron Frédéric Hartmann on February 18, 1873 that he had nearly completed this picture for the dealer Durand-Ruel: "It is a hillock, with a single tree almost bare of leaves, and which I have tried to place rather far back in the picture. The figures are a woman seen from behind and a few turkeys. I have also tried to indicate the village in the background on a lower plane." The setting is near Barbizon, where Millet lived from 1849 until his death. The tower of the neighboring hamlet of Chailly-en-Bière is visible in the distance.
Millet wrote to his patron Frédéric Hartmann on February 18, 1873 that he had nearly completed this picture for the dealer Durand-Ruel and hoped to deliver it the following week: "It is a hillock, with a single tree almost bare of leaves, and which I have tried to place rather far back in the picture. The figures are a woman seen from behind and a few turkeys. I have also tried to indicate the village in the background on a lower plane." The setting is near Barbizon, where Millet lived from 1849 until his death. In the center of the picture, what appears to be a chimney attached to the roof of a cottage has been identified as the ruined tower of the neighboring hamlet of Chailly-en-Bière, which was used as an open-air furnace (Herbert 1976, p. 214).
The effect Millet described, of placing the hill "rather far back in the picture" is similar, if less exaggerated, than in a striking composition of the same size, In the Auvergne (ca. 1867–69; Art Institute of Chicago). In these late works Millet revealed himself to be a highly original, even idiosyncratic landscape painter. A probable catalyst in this development was the death in 1867 of Théodore Rousseau, which prompted Hartmann to ask Millet to complete some landscapes by the late artist that had been paid for, but which had been left unfinished (Herbert 1976, p. 29). In any case, setting, including both time and place, had long been an instrinsic feature of Millet’s peasant subjects. Here, against the darkening sky, the inevitability of winter is stayed fleetingly by the contrasting sunlight that picks out three birds to the right of the tree and the grass among the rocks at the lower right, which is longer where it would have been more difficult to cut.
Six sketches for this picture were owned by the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1961 (see Herbert 1962, where they are dated about 1868–70). A chalk drawing after the picture by Alfred Robaut is in the MMA (61.176). The composition was etched by Vallotton.
[Asher Ethan Miller 2015]
Inscription: Signed (lower right): J.F. Millet
[Durand-Ruel, Paris; bought from the artist in May 1872 for Fr 12,300; Durand-Ruel stock 1868–1873, no. 2592; sold March 8, 1873, for Fr 30,000 to Mélas]; Michail Mélas, Marseilles (1873–74; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 30, 1874, no. 49, as "L'automne," for Fr 13,020); [M. Lannoy, Paris, 1874–75; sold for Fr 22,500 to Dupont]; J. Dupont, Antwerp (from 1875); Samuel P. Avery, New York (until about 1883; sold for $6,500 to Dana); Charles A. Dana, New York (by 1883–d. 1898; his estate sale, American Art Association, New York, February 24–26, 1898, no. 591, as "The Turkey Herder," for $20,500 to Schaus); [Hermann Schaus, New York, 1898]; Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher, New York (1898–his d. 1917)
Brussels. Galerie Ghémar. "Exposition de tableaux modernes au profit de la caisse centrale des artistes belges," 1876, no. 173 [see Herbert 1976].
New York. National Academy of Design. "Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition," December 3, 1883–January 1, 1884, no. 6 (as "The Turkey Guardian," lent by Chas. A. Dana).
New York. American Art Galleries. "Works of Antoine-Louis Barye Exhibited at the American Art Galleries under the Auspices of the Barye Monument Association, also of Paintings by J. F. Millet and Others, his Contemporaries and Friends," November 15, 1889–January 15, 1890, no. 614 (as "The Turkey Keeper," lent by Charles A. Dana).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Mr. & Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection," March 4–?, 1918, no catalogue.
Cambridge, Mass. Fogg Art Museum. "Exhibition of French Painting of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," March 6–April 6, 1929, no. 63 (as "Autumn").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscape Paintings," May 14–September 30, 1934, no. 44 (as "Autumn").
Newark Museum. "19th-Century French and American Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 9–May 15, 1946, no. 21 (as "Autumn").
Paris. Grand Palais. "Jean-François Millet," October 17, 1975–January 5, 1976, no. 242 (as "Gardeuse de dindons, l'automne").
Southampton, N.Y. Parrish Art Museum. "In Support of Liberty: European Paintings at the 1883 Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition," June 29–September 1, 1986, no. 64.
New York. National Academy of Design. "In Support of Liberty: European Paintings at the 1883 Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition," September 18–December 7, 1986, no. 64.
Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," December 3, 1986–February 1, 1987, no. 27.
Milan. Pinacoteca di Brera. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," March 4–May 10, 1987, no. 27.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "From Delacroix to Matisse," March 15–May 10, 1988, no. 11.
Moscow. Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. "From Delacroix to Matisse," June 10–July 30, 1988, no. 11.
New York. IBM Gallery of Science and Art. "The Rise of Landscape Painting in France: Corot to Monet," July 30–September 28, 1991, no. 90.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barbizon: French Landscapes of the Nineteenth Century," February 4–May 10, 1992, no catalogue.
Fort Lauderdale. Museum of Art. "Corot to Cézanne: 19th Century French Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," December 22, 1992–April 11, 1993, no catalogue.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 21.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Jean-François Millet. Letter to Monsieur [Frédéric] Hartmann. February 18, 1873 [published in Alfred Sensier, "La Vie et l'oeuvre de J.-F. Millet," Paris, 1881, p. 356 and in English in Julia Cartwright, "Jean François Millet: His Life and Letters," New York, 1902, p. 336], describes this painting, which he hopes to finish and deliver to Durand-Ruel in the following week.
J. Dupont. Letter to Ph. de Chennevières. May 14, 1875 [excerpt published in Ref. Herbert 1976, p. 215], offers this picture, which he calls "Gardeuse de dindons," for Fr 30,000 to the Director of Fine Arts for the collection of the Louvre.
E[mile]. Durand-Gréville. "La Peinture aux États-Unis: Les Galeries privées (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 36 (July 1887), p. 73.
John W. Mollett. The Painters of Barbizon: Millet, Rousseau, Diaz, Corot, Daubigny, Dupré. London, 1895, pp. 116, 119, as "Turkeys"; lists an etching by Vallotton.
Isaac D. Fletcher. Letter to Mrs. Henry Hornblower. May 1, 1899, calls it "The Turkey Herder"; notes that it depicts the same plain outside Barbizon with the same church in the distance that is represented in "The Angelus" (1857–59; Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
Louis Soullié. Peintures, aquarelles, pastels, dessins de Jean-François Millet relevés dans les catalogues de ventes de 1849 à 1900. Paris, 1900, pp. 51–52, as "L'Automne".
Paul Durand-Ruel. Mémoires de Paul Durand-Ruel. 1911–12 [published in Lionello Venturi, "Les Archives de l'impressionnisme," Paris, 1939, vol. 2, p. 185], calls it "La Gardienne de dindons"; notes that he received this picture from Millet and that it was later in the collection of Mr. Dana.
Eliot Clark. "The Fletcher Collection at the Metropolitan Museum: The Landscapes." Art World and Arts & Decoration 9 (August 1918), pp. 207, 209.
"The Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 13 (March 1918), p. 60, as "Autumn".
Robert L. Herbert. Letter to Mrs. Leonard Harris. January 19, 1962, describes six drawings for this picture seen at the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1961; dates the painting about 1870–74 and the sketches about 1868–70.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 91–93, ill., suggest a date between 1870 and 1874.
Anne Reverdy. L'École de Barbizon: Évolution du prix des tableaux de 1850 à 1960. Paris, 1973, pp. 22–23.
Robert Herbert. Jean-François Millet. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. [London], 1976, pp. 214–15, no. 145, ill. [French ed., Paris, 1975, pp. 290–91, no. 242, ill.], dates it 1872–73, noting that the canvas may have been begun in 1868–70 when Millet appears to have made some of the preparatory drawings; identifies the village in the background as Chailly and the tower in the center as a ruin that was used as an open-air furnace.
Lydie Huyghe in René Huyghe. La Relève de l'imaginaire. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle: Réalisme, romantisme. Paris, 1976, p. 467.
André Fermigier. Jean-François Millet. New York, 1977, pp. 129–30, 133, ill. p. 128 (color) [French ed., Geneva, 1977, pp. 124, 127, ill. (color)].
Sarah Burns. "A Study of the Life and Poetic Vision of George Fuller (1822–1884)." American Art Journal 13 (Autumn 1981), p. 30, mentions it as a precedent in Barbizon art for Fuller's turkey herders.
Maureen C. O'Brien in Maureen C. O'Brien. In Support of Liberty: European Paintings at the 1883 Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition. Exh. cat., Parrish Art Museum. Southampton, N.Y., 1986, pp. 24, 36, 39, 96, 170–71, no. 64, ill. p. 171 and colorpl. XXXII, dates it about 1870–74.
Ronald G. Pisano in Maureen C. O'Brien. In Support of Liberty: European Paintings at the 1883 Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition. Exh. cat., Parrish Art Museum. Southampton, N.Y., 1986, p. 69.
Gary Tinterow et al. Capolavori impressionisti dei musei americani. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Milan, 1987, pp. 64–65, no. 27, ill. (color).
Michael Brenson. "French Landscape Painting, The Seed of Impressionism." New York Times (August 2, 1991), p. C22.
Roger Hurlburt. "Free Spirits." Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (December 20, 1992), p. 4D.
Susan Alyson Stein inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 41, 235, no. 21, ill. (color and black and white).
Susan Alyson Stein inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 49, 276–77, no. 46, ill. (color and black and white).
Simon Kelly inInventing Impressionism: Paul Durand-Ruel and the Modern Art Market. Ed. Sylvie Patry. Exh. cat., Musée du Luxembourg, Paris. London, 2015, pp. 70–71, 275 n. 45 [French ed., "Paul Durand-Ruel: le Pari de l'Impressionnisme," Paris, 2014, pp. 57, 218 n. 45], notes that Durand-Ruel bought it from Millet in May 1872 for Fr 12,300 and that he sold it to Mélas on March 8, 1873, for Fr 30,000 (citing Durand-Ruel stock 1868–1873, no. 2592).
Artist: Jean-François Millet (French, Gruchy 1814–1875 Barbizon)Date: ca. 1850–52Medium: Conté crayon with stumping, heightened with white gouache, on laid paper.Accession: 26.243.1On view in:Not on view
Artist: Jean-François Millet (French, Gruchy 1814–1875 Barbizon)Date: 1830–75Medium: Pen and brown (iron gall) ink, watercolor and wash over graphite on laid paperAccession: 29.100.560On view in:Not on view