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 Francis Davis Millet  (1846 - 1912)

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About: Francis Davis Millet
 

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts / England/Europe      Known for: genre-interiors, figure and portrait painting

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Ad Code: 3
Francis Davis Millet
from Auction House Records.
Lilly Millet in a Hammock in the Studio, Bridgewater, Massac
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts and raised in East Bridgewater, Frank Millet was a respected teacher, and an academic painter and muralist known for historical genre including scenes from Alaska and Sioux Indians of Minnesota. teacher. He was President of the Guild of Boston Artists, and in 1893, served as Director of Functions at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

As a youngster, he lived on a farm whose setting was rooted in colonial America. He was a drummer boy in the Union Army, and in 1869, graduated from Harvard College with a degree in literature but during his sophomore year had developed a strong interest in painting.

His first artistic endeavor was decorating the Eagle Cotton Gin in Bridgewater, to help a friend who had the commission. He worked as a lithographer for the Boston "Advertiser" and then in 1871 went to Antwerp, Belgium, to study painting at the Royal Academy where he won many prizes and was honored by the King.

He studied painting in Rome and Venice and returned to the United States in 1875 to become a correspondent for the "Advertiser" at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition where he exhibited. In 1877, he served as an artist-correspondent during the Russo-Turkish War, and in 1884, he was back in Europe where he and John Singer Sargent and Edwin Austin Abbey formed a close working friendship. Meanwhile, in 1876, he had become one of the founders of the Boston Museum School of Art along with John La Farge and William Morris Hunt.

In Antwerp he had become friends with German art student Otto Grundman, whom Millet later successfully recommended to become Director of the newly formed School of the Museum of the Fine Arts in Boston.

He married in France, and he and his wife returned to Europe, becoming a part of prominent society in France and England with close friends including John Singer Sargent, Elihu Vedder, and Augustus St. Gaudens.

In 1876, he painted murals at Trinity Church with John LaFarge, who benefitted from Millet's European-earned knowledge of working with encaustic. He also did an occasional portrait including Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

The next fourteen years were extremely productive for him with many painting trips in Europe, and in 1885, he was elected to the National Academy of Design. In 1892-93, he took up his job as Director of Decorations and Functions at the Chicago World's Fair. In 1894, he returned to England and settled down to easel painting, but gradually became more and more involved in mural painting and give up genre subjects. In 1908, he was a special envoy to Japan on a government mission to Tokyo.

He lost his life on April 14, 1912 when he, having been appointed Director of the American Academy in Rome, gave his life preserver to a fellow passenger on the sinking "Titanic."


Source:
Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Art"

Biography from John Nicholson:
American artist, was born at Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, on the 3rd of November 1846.  He was a drummer boy with the Union forces in the Civil War; graduated from Harvard College in 1869; and in 1871 entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, where he studied under Van Lerius and De Keyser.

In 1873 he was made secretary of the Massachusetts commission to the Vienna Exposition.  During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 he was correspondent of the London Daily News and Graphic, and of the New York Herald.  On his return he was made a member from the United States of the International Art Jury at the Paris Exposition of 1878.  He was director of decorations at the Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, and in 1898 he went to Manila as war correspondent for The Times and for Harper’s Weekly.

In 1880 he became a member of the Society of American Artists, and in 1885 was elected to full membership in the National Academy of Design, New York, and was for one term its vice-president; he became a member also of the American Water Color Society and of the Institute of Painters in Oil Colors, London. 

As a decorative artist his work may be seen at Trinity Church, Boston; the Bank of Pittsburgh; and the Capitol at St Paul, Minnesota.  His pictures are in many public collections: among them are A Cosy Corner, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; At the Inn, in the Union League Club, New York; and Between two Fires, in the Tate Gallery, London. 

He also wrote essays and short stories, and an English version of Tolstoy`s Sebastopol (1887); and among his publications are The Danube (1891), Capillary Crime and other Stories (1892), and Expedition to the Philippines (1899).  Francis Millet was the host of a small group of artists, including Americans, who congregated in Broadway at the end of the 19th Century.  Francis Davis Millet lived at both Farnham House and Russell House.  The group included John Singer Sargent whose painting `Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose` was painted in Broadway. Francis Davis Millet was lost on the Titanic in 1912.

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