Jean-François Millet was born in Gruchy (Gréville-Hague) on 4 October 1814.
Raised in a farming family, nothing marked him out to become a famous painter, as he spent more than twenty years working in the fields. Educated by his uncle, a learned priest who introduced him to Voltaire and Shakespeare, he eventually attended the Ecole Cherbourg, learning painting from Paul Dumouchel and Langlois de Chèvreville, thanks to his father's bourgeois connections. Millet practised relentlessly to become the artist of a new generation, in particular by copying canvasses by the greatest painters and learning about Flemish and Spanish art. This patience was eventually rewarded when he obtained a scholarship awarded by his town to continue his apprenticeship in Paris, in recognition of his talent. His attempts to acquire his long-awaited fame were put at risk and he saw his scholarship withdrawn after twice failing to win the Prix de Rome. On returning to Cherbourg, he made a living selling portraits as well as erotic paintings, thus abandoning scenes of peasant labour.
Jean-François Millet died in Barbizon (Seine-et-Marne) on 20 January 1875.