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 George Van Millett  (1864 - 1953)

About: George Van Millett
 

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Lived/Active: Missouri/Kansas      Known for: genre, portrait, town-landscape painting

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George Millett is primarily known as George Van Millett

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George Van Millett
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Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Kansas City on April 5, 1864, George Van Horn Millett was named after Robert Van Horn, founder and editor of the Kansas City Journal as well as a Kansas City mayor, congressman and Civil War militia leader.  Van Horn was a patron of the artist's father, Henry Shirley Millett, who was known as "printer to the pioneers."
 
Millett studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, from 1886 - 1890.  He later returned to Europe for a year of travel and study.  He spent most of 1893 in Holland, where he developed a fondness for the Dutch landscape.  While a student at the Royal Academy, Millett earned a silver medal for his drawing of a seated peasant woman.
 
George Van Horn Millett (1864-1953), who took "Van" as his first name, is often referred to simply as "Van Millett."  He was founder and first president of the Art Club, an organization that later combined with several other organizations, including the Fine Arts Institute,  to  eventually evolve into the Kansas City Art Institute.  Millett taught several classes at the Arts Institute, instructing his students in the art of painting en plein air.  For more than thirty years, he was curator of the collections of William Rockhill Nelson, editor of the Kansas City Star and a prominent civic leader.   Nelson's group of copies of Old Master works was an integral part of the Western Gallery of Art, which later formed the nucleus of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
 
Millett was well-respected as an expert in painting restoration.  Throughout his lifetime, he was a vocal promoter of the arts in Kansas City, and he served on the city's first arts commission.  He made a good living as a portraitist of Kansas City civic leaders, while painting serene landscapes and evocative genre scenes.
 
Millett was a member of the Society of Western Artists and exhibited with that group in cities around the Midwest. 

Sources for the above information:
Old newspaper clippings
T.C. Steele and The Society of Western Artists, 1896 - 1914, by Rachel Berenson Perry,  Indiana University Press, 2009.
 

In 1904, Millett's portrait of Adela Van Horn won Honorable Mention at the World's Fair in St. Louis.
 
Museums holding works by this artist include the Hoover Museum in West Branch, Iowa, the Coutts Museum in El Dorado, Kansas, the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Mo., H&R Block Artspace in Kansas City, Mo., and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
 
Exhibitions:
Findlay’s Art Gallery, 917 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri, March 11 – 25, 1900 (The Shepherd; Monday Morning; The Creek)

Exhibition at Findlay’s Art Gallery, 917 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri, March 11 – 25, 1901 (Spring Time; Sunday Morning; The Sun Hath Made a Golden Set; Still Morning; The Critics)

J. D. Swan’s Art Store, 1018 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri, November 1902 (Monday Morning; Sunday Morning; The Critics)

Annual Exhibition of the Society of Western Artists, 1903 (The Shepherd; Sunday Morning)

Exhibition at Findlay’s Art Gallery, 917 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri, 1903 (Monday Morning; Sunday Morning; Mary; Moonrise)

Universal Exposition, World’s Fair in St. Louis, 1904 ( Portrait of Adela Van Horn)

Museum of Classical Archaeology of the University of Missouri, October 1913
(The Old Daguerreotype; Missouri Gone Republican)

Exhibition of Oil Paintings by G.V. Millett, The Findlay Art Gallery, 925 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri, March 29-April 10, 1915 (The Garden Fence)

The Kansas City Art Institute: An Especially Arranged Exhibit of Old Masters with a One-Man Show by George Van Millett, April 15 – May 1, 1922
(Spring Time; Monday Morning; The Shepherd; Sunday Morning; Sunset; The Critics; On Benton Boulevard, 1902; Portrait of Robert Van Horn; Portrait of Philip S. Brown; Portrait of Julia Brown; Portrait of Philip Setzler; Hoover’s Message; Ambition; Moonlight on the Missouri; The Weapon Maker)

The Kansas City Athenaeum, 900 East Linwood Boulevard, April, 1928
(The Silence of Nature)

Exhibition of Paintings in Oil by George Van Millett, The Rustic Lodge of Dr. and Mrs. G. Wilse Robinson, 8100 Independence Road, Kansas City, Missouri, June 1 – 4, 1928 (The First Born; On Benton Boulevard, 1902; The Open Door; Corner of the Room; Just Fishin’; The Frog Hunter; Evening; Spring; Open Country; The Silence of Nature; Flowers)

Exhibition at Sarachek Galleries, 1117 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri, 1929 (A Winter’s Day; The First Born; On Benton Boulevard, 1902; The Open Door; The Frog Hunter; A Midsummer’s Day; Open Country)

Exhibition of Oil Paintings by G.V. Millett, Silhouette Studio, 2112 Alameda Road, Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri, March 24 – April 7, 1930
(A Winter’s Day; The First Born; On Benton Boulevard, 1902; The Open Door; The Frog Hunter; A Midsummer’s Day; Open Country; Flowers)

Kansas City Art Institute Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition of Paintings by George Van Millett, December 5 – 26, 1937 (The First Born; A Sunset; Missouri Gone Republican; Hoover’s Message; Still Morning; Just Fishin’; Portrait of U.S. Epperson; A Dining Room Picture)

Oil Paintings by G.V. Millett, Better Homes and Building Exhibition, New Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, Missouri, February 10-15, 1937 ( Flowers)

Exhibition at the Women’s City Club, Kansas City, Missouri, February 2-28, 1942 (Sunday Morning; On Benton Boulevard, 1902; Hoover’s Message; Spring; A Dining Room Picture)

Kansas City Collects, Thomas McCormick and Melissa Williams, Missouri Artists, Kansas City Art Institute, January 5-26, 1985 (The Creek; Downtown Kansas City in 1908)

Information provided by Lynn Mackle

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from art writer Fred McCraw:

George Van Horn (Van) Millett (1864-1952) was perhaps the highest profile Kansas City artist at the turn of the last century. He has been listed in Benezit for nearly a century and in most North American listing dictionaries.

George Van Millett studied in Munich and in Paris and possibly in Holland. While in his 70s he served briefly as a curator at the Nelson Atkins Museum (the museum opened in 1933).

His art shows German, early Dutch master and Barbizon influences both as to presentation and subject. He avoided much of the indulgent romanticism pervasive in the late 19th century and, instead, adopted more of that century's earlier German romantic realism. He painted genre scenes such as Vermeer-like house interiors (with and without figures) and recorded daily activities of family members indoors and outdoors. He was sought after as a portrait painter.

He held to traditional ways of painting and, in effect, ignored 20th century modern art trends that came to the fore during his advanced years. But his canvasses (often framed by the artist under glass to forestall the necessity of cleaning, and the inevitable removal of paint accompanying that process) are of complex design.

In 1952, George "Van" Millett died in Kansas City, Missouri, the city of his birth.

Addendum by Fred McCraw:
"Art acquaintances here have long believed, with me, that the name was Dutch (and that he studied in Holland), when, in fact, I have now discovered that it was English. His father, H.S. Millett, reportedly came from Nottingham, was in Colorado around 1840 and moved to Kansas City before the Civil War (about 1860). A Mr. George (Van) Millett (I found him mentioned that way genealogically) was the second son of H. S. who started a family here during the early 1860s. George's 1864 birth date is consistent with that scenario.

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Artist. Address in Kansas City in 1898 was at 517 Old YMCA Building.
Source:
SOURCES:
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Kansas City Directory (1886-87; 1887-1888; 1890-1891; 1892; 1893; 1894; 1895; 1896; 1897; 1898; 1899; 1900; 1901; 1902; 1903; 1904; 1905; 1906; 1907; 1908; 1909; 1910; 1911; 1912; 1916; 1920; 1922; 1924; 1925; 1927; 1929; 1930; 1932; 1934; 1936; 1938; 1940; 1942) 1898
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

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