Millet is a particular favorite of mine, as readers of these pages have seen. He painted regular people going about their lives doing regular things in rural 19th-century France--spinners, shepherds, spindling shepherdesses, among many other subjects.
(click all images for bigness)
He often used scenes
from his own life, peopled by his own family. One of my favorite
themes is my topic today--The Knitting Lesson.
Millet was not alone in painting this tender scene. Other artists have also done so from time to time. See my previous entry here.
Millet painted and sketched this scene many times, and here are a sketch and three painting, all variations on the theme.
In each the tenderness and love of the mother for the daughter, as well as of the painter for the mother and daughter, is palpable.
The large outline of each is the same, but the small details vary from one to the next--the dress, the amount of light coming in the window, whether the mother has work on her lap. Sometimes there is a kitten in the background; the items on the linen press change from one image to the next
"Already a considerable
length of stocking has been made, but this is a place where close
attention is needed. Perhaps it is time to begin shaping the heel.
The mother's work is left altogether for a moment. Putting her arm
about the child's shoulder, she takes the two little hands in hers,
and guides the fingers holding the needles."
From a book published in 1900, Jean FrançoisMillet, by Estelle M. Hurll, available herefrom Project Gutenberg. On that page you will also find yet another variation on the scene.
This is Millet's painting, "End of the Hamlet of Gruchy," giving a glimpse of more of Millet's everyday life.