Frank D. Millet: His life and work

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http://www.jssgallery.org/Other_Artists/Millet_Francis_D/Francis_D_Millet.htm will take you to some of his most famous works. Frank, being so very well-travelled, was an expert on ethnic costume and was a detail person in executing costume on canvas. I particularly am enchanted with his sense of human nature in portraying people going about everyday experiences. The Love Letter, The Cosey Corner, Between Two Fires (at the Tate), Wandering Thoughts, etc. utterly get it right as to facial expression, body posture, gentle nuance. As you might guess, I find him a genius, and the brush work at close hand is so fine and subtle, the colors so refined and naturalistic; this is the hand of a master. He was consulted by heads of state around the world, on many matters artistic, from placement of statues, to decoration of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. He was also a brilliant diarist and humorist, with an hilarious whimsical capability. It is no wonder he was friend to Mark Twain, Saint Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, and everybody who was anybody of his age.
 
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Metropolitan (NY) A Cosey Corner
Boston: MFA The Granddaughter and Seacoast
Atlanta Georgia (High Museum) The Expansionist (Traveled Man)
Boston, Harvard-Sophocles and assorted sketches
Detroit Museum of Art-Reading the Story of Oenone
Tate-London, Between Two Fires
Washington D.C. Smithsonian, The Cossacks Part II (50 Lashes)
 

Mark Baber

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Millet painted two large murals and some smaller paintings that can be seen in the Hudson County Court House, Jersey City, New Jersey.
 

Dave Gittins

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To get back to Darren's original question, Millet was not a very significant artist. You won't find him in Encyclopedia Britanica and I'm pretty sure he's not in Encyclopedia Americana either. You have to hunt around a lot to find him in the standard references.

Millet had a great deal of technical facility. One of his special skills was the painting of fabric, as in A Difficult Duet. However, he was pretty much of the 'chocolate box' school. He painted subjects that were commonly considered 'arty'. Notice that the people in the painting are from 100 years or so before Millet's time. Those in Between Two Fires are from even further back.

I'm afraid that in the overall picture of the history of art, Millet is very much a minor figure.
 
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For the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago Millet served two functions. The 1st was his appointment as head of the "Whitewash Gang," where as Director of Color, he developed a method of spray painting for the exterior of the main buildings. He decided on ordinary white lead and oil. He was also appointed Director of Functions with the primary task being to bolster attendance. It including such things as planning for fireworks displays and parades and special event days. For a good read about the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 take a look at "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. It doesn't have much on Millet, but it begins and ends with Daniel Burnham, the chief architect of the exposition, in suite C 63-65 on the eastbound voyage of the Olympic on the night of April 14/15, 1912.
 
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Shelley, thanks for posting this website. Its the first time I have seen any paintings by Millet. I should think he would be more well known than he is not just from being a great artist but also just the fact of being a Titanic victim. Back during the height of the Titanic craze after Camerons movie, Millet wasn't a person that you heard much about as compared to Molly Brown or the Duff Gordons.
 
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Francis Millet has a paragraph in a set of Enclyclopedia's that I have. Worlds Popular Encyclopedia from 1937.
Millet, Francis Davis (1846-1912), artist and war correspondent;born Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. He learned to draw and paint in Antwerp, London and Paris after graduating from Harvard. In the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8 he wrote and sketched as correspondent for the New York Herald, London Daily News and the London Graphic. In the Phillipines, 1898, he described the fighting there for the London Times and Harper's Weekly. He was chiefly notable for his mural paintings, to which he gave much study in his later years. Examples of his work appear in the Baltimore Custom House, Cleveland Post Office, Minnesota State Capitol, the Supreme Court, Madison, Wisconsin and the County courthouses at Newark and Jersey City, N.J. He took an active part in founding the American Academy at Rome. He met his death in the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912.
 
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The Cleveland Post Office murals are spectacular and are undergoing restoration. The many ways of delivering the mail are depicted, including a transatlantic liner carrying the Royal Mail. Millet relatives abound, including a grandson. They tend to keep a low profile by choice. The author of Soldier of Fortune, Frank's grandaughter, died not too long ago (this was his daughter Kate's child, Joyce). Frank had his hand in a lot more than art at the World's Fair, when vistors were so dazzled with the dutiful uplifting classical motifs and "high art" , Burnham was afraid the sense of fun, seen on the Plaisance midway was missing. Frank had to "pep things up" to keep the excitement going. This he did by organizing impromptu inter-ethnic group competitions, swimming meets in that famous lagoon, boat races, street performers, etc. Having been in every hole and corner on the planet, Millet knew what would capture and entertain the imaginations of the average citizen. In this , he was a genius and saved Burnham's bacon more than once.
I will agree, Dave, that some of his work was pretty, fluffy stuff, and some of his ladies could appear on a chocolate box, with all the usual Victorian sentimentality. Unfortunately, many do not look past this genre, and into some of his brilliant charcoals or pen and inks of people he sketched on his many journeys. His Transverse se Sioux is masterful, and the detail on the costume of Native Americans is breathtaking. His Cossack series is bold , raw, and powerful in capturing the nature of these people, and his work "Seacoast" is about as non-sugary and modern as you could hope to find. Millet was clever enough to know his audience, and to know the popular taste. But he was far more than one-dimensional as an artist. Some of his finest work is in private hands, thus not widely seen and appreciated. There is always an edge, and a glimpse of insight into human behavior and nature in every canvas in the actions or faces and dynamics of the sitter or groupings. The last word on his life story has been written, and I hope will be published soon by Peter Engstrom. I would hope to contribute something, in some small way to the the appreciation of his lesser known works, and the far broader scope of his artistic vision than is commonly known and recognized. Millet was also held in high regard by LaFarge, and designed the cartoons for stained glass with the LaFarge Studio.
 
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Shelley, you have such a way for words when describing Millets work. Its such a pleasure to read your posts and read the websites you post. I have learned so much about Millet. There were so many interesting and famous people aboard the Titanic and I think his loss made the disaster just that much worse. I have just started having a greater appreciation for art. It seems like once you start visiting art museums, you want to see more. In July I went through Philadelphia and visited the art museum there. I asked if any of Millets work was in the museum and unfortunately, there wasn't. However, I did get to see Van Gogh's famous "Sunflowers" painting. Also, I always have to get a look at the rusting oceanliner "United States" when in that city. Thanks again for your interesting posts and websites.
 
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Thanks Shelley for sharing your information. I’m much looking forward to the biography by Peter Engstrom. It really is aggravating to keep seeing comments made about how "minor" Millet was as an artist, when the greatness he achieved as a cultural figure within the arts is probably more important.

As you’ve stated, he didn’t concentrate fully on painting, being perhaps more adept at (or at least more interested in) the business and politics of the art world of his time. He was involved in so many aspects of art, design, society and politics in his day that he definitely qualifies as a renaissance man.

In the early 20th century, art was fusing with commerce in a very big way. The modern art world with its focus on finance as much as the art itself was emerging, and Millet —— as a diplomat, host, critic, organizer and administrator —— was a key transitional figure in the developing industry.

People are being small minded when they judge Millet merely as an artist, forgetting the unprecedented status he occupied as a business and social leader in the increasingly corporate climate of the art profession. He was a visionary, cultivating talent and encouraging exploration, and Peter Engstrom’s book will go a long way toward restoring Millet’s reputation as a tastemaker, pundit, teacher and public relations genius at a time when the increasingly diverse, fragmented and controversial art world needed his leadership and direction.
 
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I don't know much about art but I feel like I have found a treasure. Its an 1888 original antique print that was etched/engraved by Goupil & Company. Produced by the Appleton & Co out of New York. The print is of Francis Millets painting "A Cozy Corner". Its a beautiful print. I think I got a good deal, only 20 dollars off of Ebay. The seller was from Provincetown, Mass. so I am thinking that the print must not be that rare or have much value as Provincetown is an artsy place and people there know their art, am I correct?
 
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Thanks for posting that website. Its sad to think that since 9/11 many of the things we always took for granted have been taken away from us. For instance, no one will ever know whats it like to look out of the crown or the torch of the Statue of Liberty anymore. I couldn't even see the exact spot where the Hindenburg went down because of security concerns. Are the murals by Millet in the Customs House not accessible to the public? I bet they were before 9/11.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Darren, that is a great price on the print- the going price for Millet's prints is 60-80$. I have been pretty lucky on ebay too and got The Water Carrier for about 20$ in black and white, unframed. Cosey Corner is one of my favorites, and may well have been painted in East Bridgewater, as that fireplace and special window is still in existence today in his studio there. The painting was done, as always, with a model, in 1884 and the original is in the Met in New York.Along with Wandering Thoughts, The Cosey Corner is one of his best-loved and most popular paintings.
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Dave Gittins

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Darren, Denise didn't spell out the details of the security.

An interesting thing is that she tells me the paintings are not frescos, as I'd assumed. They were done on canvas and attached to the walls and ceilings.
 
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Thanks Shelley for that interesting information. Wouldn't it be neat to have a photo of yourself sitting in the same spot where that lady is in the painting. I have been close to East Bridgewater and it seems like I always learn something about a place after I get home. I like the Cosey Corner myself and I think Millet was a great artist.