Art: A Great Lost Painter

For M. Millet, art is slavish copying of nature. He lights his lantern and goes looking for cretins. . .imagine a monster with no skull, the eye extinguished by an idiot's squint, straddling in the middle of a field like a scarecrow. No spark of intelligence humanizes this resting brute. Has he been working or murdering?

So ran one Paris critic's response to Jean François Millet's Man with a Hoe at the Salon of 1863. And how the Second Empire's fear of the collective poor is distilled in the last six words! Proletarian labor, as a subject for art, was the...