The Shephard Essay, Research Paper
The Shepard’s Keeper
Throughout time there has been at least one constant that I am aware of. That constant is art. One particular piece of art stands out and catches the eye. That piece of art is The Shepherdess and Her Flock constructed and perfected by Jean Francois Millet. When one makes a certain judgment on a piece of art, one must be precise and certain about that judgment. When observing Millet’s piece I will take in to consideration three things to make my judgment: use of color, theme, and meaning.
The Shepherdess and Her Flock catches the eye very quickly. The painting consists of a shepherdess tending to her sheep in some remote hills perhaps and most likely in Western Europe. The shepherdess herself is standing just a few paces ahead of her flock while they are all grouped together tightly apparently feeding. She is holding a staff while studying the ground. The look on her face makes her seem like she is disturbed for some unknown reason. The shepherdess is wearing many articles of clothing. Her first layer is blue and reaches down to her ankles. The next layer appears to be some kind of shawl. The shawl is cream colored and only reaches just past her waist. The final piece of clothing is red and only covers her head. The grass beneath the shepherdess, which covers the entire land, has bald spots and contains dandy lions giving it great character. This is the grass on which the flock is feeding on. Watching over the sheep is a shepherd dog stand just to the right of the flock. The dog stands very proudly and has a great pride in his job. The sky in this work is covered entirely with clouds. The only bare spot in the sky is at the very top of the painting where the clouds begin to split. Millet’s work appears to be set early in the morning. Looking beyond the flock as far as the painting will allow, one can see some hills and trees and perhaps a small village or town. This painting is overwhelming with beauty and style and elegance. Millet comes to the edge of perfection is his work, The Shepherdess and Her Flock.
When an artist creates a piece, in this case a painting, the artists must take into consideration the colors that he/she uses. For example, if the artist were to paint his work only using the colors black and white, that would suggest the painting was meant to be bleak and somewhat hollow. If the artist were to use the color red often, it would indicate that he intended the object to seem powerful or strong. The Shepherdess and Her Flock uses color very diligently and boldly. The object that most stands out in this work is the shepherdess’ head cover. The head cover is red. This object is colored red to show that the shepherdess is powerful or contains strength in some way. Along with her red head cover, the shepherdess is wearing a blue dress. Millet uses the color blue to personify her innocence and purity. Another way Millet uses color is in clouds that watch over the women and her sheep. The clouds are somewhat dark and have a very light shade of red or orange to them. These colors tell us that the painting is set early in the morning at the crack of dawn. Millet uses color brilliantly in this work. The combination of colors he uses really brings the painting to life, almost telling a story.
The theme of a painting rectifies whether a certain audience will like a painting or not. In this case, Jean Francois Millet uses the theme of virtue. He uses this theme by having the shepherdess tend to her flock. Millet is telling the audience that the shepherdess is virtues because she is taking care of what makes her who she is. It is obvious to assume that the shepherdess does this same thing day in and day out. If she did not contain virtue, she would not have the ambition to tend to her flock as she does in this painting.
One can always find meaning in everything, especially in a painting. The Shepherdess and Her Flock contains a somewhat deep meaning. I believe that the painting has a meaning of trust. I believe that Millet is trying to say that the shepherdess trusts everything around her. In the painting, the shepherdess has her back turned to the sheep and pretty much the rest of the world. One must have trust in something to feel comfortable with their back turned to it. The woman feels comfortable with the way she lives because she is used to it. The disturbed look on her face indicates that she is tired of what she does, but she feels comfortable with it and has trust in it. Every audience has a different opinion of what the true, deeper meaning of this painting is. Mine is simply that she feels comfortable in a world that she knows so well.
In conclusion, I have found that The Shepherdess and Her Flock is one of my favorite paintings. I like all the elements that Millet uses to personify the meaning of this work. When one makes a judgment about a piece of art he/she must consider color, theme and meaning. One cannot fully understand and appreciate a painting until he/she takes into consideration these three things.