• Van Gogh Museum
  • Amsterdam
  • NL
  • 2019
  • I.c.w. Michaël Snitker (graphic design)
Jean-François Millet, ‘The Angelus’, 1857-1859, Musée d’Orsay

The French artist Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) is widely considered as one of the most important Barbizon School painters, yet his enormous influence on the many generations of artists that followed him is often neglected. The exhibition Jean-François Millet: Sowing the Seeds of Modern Art illustrates just how progressive the work of Millet was in his own time and how important he became to modern artists after him, such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Winslow Homer and Salvador Dalí. This is the first exhibition to explicitly focus on the international impact of the modernity of Millet’s work.

The exhibition design starts from this notion of modernity in Millet’s work, or more specifically from the modern appreciation of space that radiates from his paintings. The notion of modern space evolved from the awareness of a global or rather universal space. Any individual space or place is related to this infinite, modern space and modern spatiality arises in the relation in-between: far and near, vast and narrow, open and closed, individual and collective, local and global, self-contained and interdependent, etc., etc… Or for example in-between a place defined by praying farmers and the apparently infinite world surrounding them.

Modern artists and architects explored modern spatiality. And of course, in the Van Gogh Museum modernist spatial exploration isn’t very hard to find. In fact, it’s all around you: it’s in the artworks and most prominently it’s in the original building by Rietveld, van Dillen en van Tricht. So, in a way it only seemed obvious to relate the layout of an exhibition about the work of Jean-François Millet directly to the elaborated plans of Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964), one of the true wizards of modern space.

exhibition photography: Luuk Kramer