In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week we feature an exceptional pastel whose upcoming sale is generating quite the buzz.

In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week we feature an exceptional pastel whose upcoming sale is generating quite the buzz.

French artist and leader of the Barbizon School of painters Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) was one of the most influential painters of his time. With his art highly coveted and predominantly found in public collections, the upcoming sale of “Le Passage des oies sauvages” is certainly gaining a lot of attention.

Headlining Christie’s May 23 “19th Century European Art” sale in New York City, “Le Passage des oies sauvages” is arguably one of the artist’s most appealing and original compositions, according to the auction house. “Drawn in the early 1860s,” Christie’s writes, “the pastel offers an image that is essentially timeless, expressed with a color and touch that were particularly modern and very much Millet’s own.”

Masterfully captured using bold shapes and muted hues, two female figures gaze upward toward the sky. In this scene, the two are observing a distant flock of geese. Just beyond the main characters is a herd of sheep. Christie’s continues, “Many of Millet’s wide-ranging themes of life in the fields and forests have their roots in his own childhood, expressions of scenes glimpsed as a young boy growing up in a remote farming village at the edges of Normandy, celebrating tasks he understood deep in his own body from long hours working the land himself beside his father and brothers.”

Noteworthy for “Le Passage des oies sauvages” is the color. In fact, Millet’s inclusion of pastel and/or crayon colors in his drawings was relatively novel. According to Christie’s, during and after the mid-1850s, finished drawings became a central focus for Millet’s livelihood, which satisfied his growing numbers of small-scale private collectors. “Until about 1860, those drawings had been executed almost entirely in black crayon, perhaps highlighted with a bit of white,” Christie’s writes. “In response to his patrons’ demand, he had experimented with working small areas of very restrained pastel or crayon color into a woman’s skirt or a landscape element.”

Auction estimates are between $600,000 and $800,000. To learn more, visit Christie’s.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the Editor of Fine Art Today and works as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

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