Winter and Millet's Ravens

Winter and Millet's Ravens
Winter and Millet's Ravens

This is a very curious work by the French artist Jean Francois Millet, since it presents us with a peasant atmosphere, like those who star in the vast majority of his works, among which which include great creations such as El Angelus or Las Espigadoras. But the big difference is that there is no character on this canvas, except for the landscape itself, and yet it remains a magnificent work in the realistic style to which Millet's pictorial production is ascribed.

Millet's Winter and Ravens

Winter and Millet's Ravens

The canvas is practically divided in two, with the upper half occupied by a cloudy sky and the lower half by a large desert plain, and both spaces are joined (or separated) by a narrow strip of forest. However, in this landscape a few peasant objects stand out, so they come to be present without appearing. For that reason you can see a plow and some harrows, both farming tools that we see abandoned, and they only serve to be perched on them by crows, birds of ill omen like few others.

Those black birds perch, endure the cold, look around and wait for the winter to pass. At first glance, the image tells us little more. The simplicity in the work is total and absolute. In fact there are authors who consider that despite what we see it is almost not a landscape, but a portrait of the plain.

We see that everything is dominatedby horizontality, which becomes a symbol, since agriculture really consists of making vertical elements emerge from the fields, and seeing how Millet paints us that landscape so flat, it may seem like a true miracle to achieve verticality there. But it is not achieved with miracles, but with hard work, constant and very sacrificed.

The truth is that this is not the only work by Millet in which he presents us with a landscape and completely renounces the presence of the human figure. He did other works along these lines, but they are never grandiloquent landscapes, and although in this case he undoubtedly conveys an idea to us, he uses it less and less to express feelings and more as an object of his art.

This painting of The winter and the ravens was painted in 1862, but during the 70s he would paint works in which this setting is increasingly important, and although sometimes return to intimacy, the truth is that it stops more in the act of representing that landscape than in its use as a setting for a message.

An attitude that is much easier to understand knowing that during those years Millet came into contact with some painters of a later generation, those belonging to the Barbizon School. Some painters almost exclusively interested in painting landscapes, both natural and urban.

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