The Angelus is one of the few of Millet’s works which have changed with time. The color has grown dark and the canvas has cracked somewhat, owing to the use of bitumen in the painting.
[Footnote 1: “Hail Mary”; see St. Luke, chapter i., verse 28.]
FILLING THE WATER-BOTTLES
The artist Millet loved to draw as well as to paint. Black and white pictures had their charm for him as truly as those in color. Indeed, he once said that “tone,” which is the most important part of color, can be perfectly expressed in black and white. It is therefore not strange that he made many drawings. Some of these, like the Knitting Lesson and the Woman Feeding Hens, were, as we have seen, studies for paintings. The picture called Filling the Water-Bottles was, on the other hand, a charcoal drawing, corresponding to no similar painting. It is in itself a finished work of art.
It is a typical French river scene which we see here, and it gives us an idea how large a part a river may take in the life of French country people. Sometimes it is the sole source of water for a village. Then it is not only the common village laundry, in which all clothing is washed, but it is also the great village fountain, from which all drinking-water is drawn.
The women in our picture have come to the bank with big earthen jars to fill. It is in the cool of early morning, and the mist still lies thick over the marshes bordering the river. The sun, seen through the mist, looks like a round ball. On the farther bank, where a group of poplars grow, some horsemen ride up to ford the stream. They, too, are setting forth early on their day’s work. One is already half across.
The women have picked out, along the marshy bank, a point of land jutting into the river like a miniature promontory, and seemingly of firm soil. It is only large enough to hold one at a time, so they take turns. One is now filling a bottle, while the other waits, standing beside two jars.
The first woman kneels on the ground, and supporting herself firmly by placing one hand on the edge of the bank, she grasps the jar by the handle, with her free right hand, and swings it well out over the water. Experience has taught her the most scientific way of filling the jar with least muscular strain. She does not try to plunge it down into the water, but holding it on its side, slightly tipped, draws it along with the mouth half under the surface, sucking in the water as it moves. We see what hard, firm muscles she has to hold the arm out so tensely. Her arm acts like a compass describing the arc of a circle through the water with the jar. As we look, we can almost see her completing the circle, and drawing up the full jar upon the bank.
[Illustration: From a carbon print by Braun, Clement & Co. FILLING THE WATER-BOTTLES John Andrew & Son, Sc.]