On the evening of March 5, Professor Linus Meldrum introduced the artwork of Jean-François Millet, “painter, peasant and Catholic,” as part of a month-long art exhibition in the Gentile Gallery.
Meldrum, who earned his masters of fine arts from The Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut, and serves as assistant professor of Fine Arts at Franciscan University, lectured on Millet’s life and the exhibition titled “Men and Women at Work in the Paintings of Jean-François Millet.” Pictures of Millet’s paintings were hung on walls around the Gallery, along with quotes from art critics and Millet himself.
Meldrum explained that the nineteenth-century French painter had an awe for the simple things in nature and the peasant workers he often painted, whom higher society did not tend to appreciate. Millet’s parents instilled in him a “deep concern for all that was ‘beautiful, terrible or inexplicable’… which seemed to him to be the work of the creator,” Meldrum said, quoting the artist.
Meldrum emphasized a similarity between the painter and St. Francis in their great attention to the beauty of nature that led to an even greater attention to the human person. Millet did not attempt to idealize the countryside or the people who lived in it, but tried “to reveal to others, rich or poor, the beauty of the human activity of laboring close to the earth and the beauty of those incarnate souls who perform that labor,” explained Meldrum.
One painting Meldrum shared, “The Angelus,” features two country people pausing their work to pray the evening Angelus. Meldrum said, “I do believe this image provides us with an invitation to devotion. … It acquaints us with the humility of believers living in God’s world.”
“I think humility is contagious,” he said, “(and) witnessing humility is convicting. I believe that Millet intends this for us.”
Junior Annie Mellody said, “Millet has such a humility in his paintings, and all of his characters that he paints and all of his portraits are just showing the average humble person. He’s able to put this incredible beauty into such normal tasks of life.”
It struck Mellody “how committed he was to trying to be real, but (also seeing) good and beauty and truth and God’s glory in the most fundamental things of life.”
The exhibition was originally shown in Italy and came to the US for the 2017 Festival of Friendship in Pittsburgh. The Fine Arts Department had the opportunity to bring the display to Franciscan and the works will be on display through the month of March.