[Illustration: From a carbon print by Braun, Clement & Co John Andrew & Son, Sc. THE KNITTING LESSON]
As we look at the picture we feel sure that Millet was a lover of children, and it is pleasant to know that he had many of his own. The artist father was his children’s favorite playmate, and at the close of his day’s work in his studio, they ran to meet him with shouts of joy. He used to like to walk about the garden with them showing them the flowers. In winter time they sat together by the fire, and the father sang songs and drew pictures for the little ones. Sometimes taking a log from the wood basket he would carve a doll out of it, and paint the cheeks with vermilion. This is the sort of doll we see on the window seat in our picture.
Ruskin tells us that a true artist feels like a caged bird in painting any enclosed space, unless it contains some opening like a door or window. No amount of beauty will content us, he says, if we are shut in to that alone. Our picture is a good proof of this principle. We can easily fancy how different the effect would be without the window: the room would appear almost like a prisoner’s cell. As it is, the great window suggests the out-of-door world into which it opens, and gives us a sense of larger space.
Our illustration is taken from a drawing. Millet was a painstaking artist who made many drawings and studies for his paintings. This is probably such a study, as there is also a painting by him of the same subject very similar to this.
THE POTATO PLANTERS
In the picture called The Potato Planters we are reminded at once of the peasants we have already seen in Going to Work. We see here married people a few years older than the young people of the other picture working together in the fields.
It may be that this is their own little plot of ground, for they work with a certain air of proprietorship. They look prosperous, too, and are somewhat better dressed than common laborers. It is the highest ambition of the French peasant to own a bit of land. He will make any sacrifice to get it, and possessing it, is well content. He labors with constant industry to make it yield well.
The field here is at quite a distance from the village where the workers live. We can see the little group of houses on the horizon. In France the agricultural classes do not build their dwelling-houses on their farms, but live instead in village communities, with the farms in the outlying districts. The custom has many advantages. The families may help one another in various ways both by joining forces and exchanging services. They may also share in common the use of church, school, and post office. This French farming system has been adopted in Canada, while in our own country we follow the English custom of building isolated farmhouses.