Sur cette page, les élèves d'English Comm' sont invités à publier des textes de leur composition : récit de voyage, visite de musée ou d'exposition, description d'une passion, d'un événement historique... un très bon exercice de production écrite !

 


    Evelyne recently saw the wonderful exhibition « Millet USA » at the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Lille). She was impressed by his career and his style. The exhibition was called « Millet USA ». Indeed, although he was French, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) became very famous in the USA, where the notion of « land » meant so much. He also later influenced photographers and film-makers… Thanks a lot to Evelyne for sharing her feelings and impressions on this great artist…

    This wonderful exhibition let us discover several aspects of the life and work of Millet. In the 1900s, he was one of the first to create paintings of peasants toiling in rural landscapes. In the mid 1840s, he turned his back to the academic style of his early artistic education , and co-founded the Barbizon school near Fontainebleau. He became renowned with his most famous painting : The Angelus.

 

    American painters came to France and worked with him to discover this new style. Many of his paintings were reproduced in the USA as photographies and lithographies. They became very popular because they were also a representation of the pionners’ life. Later, photographers and film makers saw Millet as an inspiration and mentor.

The winnower - 1848
The winnower - 1848

    This painting made in Barbizon was exhibited at Le Salon, and gave him his first great success. This masterpiece was the turn of his career and the beginning of his recognition as an "artist to the people".

The angelus - 1857-1859
The angelus - 1857-1859

    The scene shows a farmer and his wife taking a break from their work, to pray beneath an evening sky. Some thought it was a religious glorification. Others believed it to be an homage to the hardships of the working class. Sold for 1800 frs in 1860, it was several times auctioned, and its price increased to 800,000 frs. In 1909, the owner bequeathed it to le Louvre.

   These works are characterized by breadth and simplicity. They depict the peasant figures quietly engaged in their labour. By his personal brushwork, Millet dignifies characters and transforms them into heroic pictorial beings.

 

    Millet’s naturalism and poetic imagery impacted many painters' methods. For example, in the 1880s, Van Gogh made a drawing of The peasant woman gleaning and painted The sower using modern color theories.

    In the 1930s, Millet’s influence could be seen on many realist photographies of the rural American life, as those of Lewis Hines and Arthur Rothstein.

Berry pickers, Lewis Hines
Berry pickers, Lewis Hines

   Many things have been said and written about the history, or rather the fate, of native American Indians... As the first settlers arrived from Europe to conquer the "New World" that would become the USA, these tribes disappeared little by little. Thomas wrote the following text in tribute to them... Thanks a lot to him. Don't miss the interview of Kevin Costner at the end !

    Indians... These people were 500 nations : Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, Sioux, Hurons, Pawnees, Iroquois, Cheyenne, Mohicans, Apaches and more... They had been the pioneers of the Americas since Prehistory ; since their ancestors arrived in the Bering Strait 20 000 years ago. Then they colonized the entire American continent, from North to South, little by little. They lived rather peacefully, in spite of the wars between various and different tribes.

    Until the arrival of European settlers in 1492 with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

 

    The historical irony was that : these Indians were the first settlers on the American continent. European explorers did not suspect that they had just found again another part of the family of Humanity.

 

   Remember : racism is expressed as hostility, hatred towards a group or a category of people. As we know it today, it appeared more exactly at the time of Christopher Columbus. Before 1492 and the discovery of the New World, there was talk of xenophobia, not really racism. Xenophobia means fear of the foreigner, fear of the other. A very great choc of cultures.

 

Indeed, just after the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the successors massacred, killed and reduced in slavery, without pity, the Indian tribes.

   Considering them as savages, foreign to Western culture, and unknown in the Bible. The first tribes affected were those of Central America and those of South America, between the 15th and the 18th centuries. Then those of North America during the conquest of the West in the 19th century. Wars were not the only causes of the extermination of the American Indians. The diseases transmitted by settlers and their domestic animals from Europe made many more victims and decimated large tribes at great speed!


    Some Indian tribes managed to ally themselves with the European settlers. Although some Indian tribes lived in peace, negotiated and traded with European settlers, there were many more wars between them than peace unfortunately. And why? One of the explanations : the mentality of men was not the same as today during these past centuries. In the past, we did not know many things that we know today. Mostly thanks to DNA.

    Today we must remember the past, to understand the present and plan the future of these peoples, and not feeling guilty about this chapter of History. We can and we must repair the errors ; turn the page. In 1990, the American director and actor Kevin Costner directed the film "Dance with Wolves" in tribute to the Sioux tribe, and a few years later he directed the documentary series "500 Nations" in memory of all these tribes, all these Indian people, forgotten by History.

    Other films were also made : «The revenant» directed by Alejandro Gonzalez in 2016, with Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hardy; «The New World» directed by Terence Malik in 2005, with Colin Farrell, Christian Ball, Christopher Plummer, David Thewlis and Q’Orianka Kilcher; «The Last of the Mohicans» directed by Michaël Mann in 1992, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe; «Mission» directed by Roland Joffé in 1986 with Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Aidan Quinn and Liam Neeson; «1492, Christopher Columbus» directed by Ridley Scott in 1992, with Gérard Depardieu, Sigourney Weaver, Tchéky Karyo, Michaël Wincott and Armand Assante; «Little Big Man» directed by Arthur Penn in 1970, with Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway; «Apocalypto» directed by Mel Gibson in 2006. The Indian American actors Wes Studi and Graham Greene are two of the most famous in America and in the World.

    To know more, the interview of Kevin Costner about the making of "500 Nations" :


   Françoise is fond of history and she wanted to pay tribute to a famous English writer : Rudyard Kipling, whose courageous son unfortunately died at an early age during the First World War. Rudyard Kipling is mostly well-known for his Book of the Jungle, but also for his famous poem : If… Thanks a lot for this text entitled “In the name of the Son…”.

    The great writer Rudyard Kipling and his wife Carrie had an only son: John. This boy was 17 years old in 1914 at the beginning of the Great War. John wanted to join the army to do his patriotic duty. But he was very much short-sighted and was reformed twice. Rudyard, his father, supported his son. So, he asked support to many friends and relations. Lord Roberts integrated John in his Irish Guards’ Regiment. Rudyard was very happy and wrote a famous poem entitled If with this last very famous sentence: “you’ll be a man my son”.

   On the 25th of September, John wrote a letter to his parents. On the 2nd of October, a telegram broke bad news in England: John was missing, supposed wounded on the front line at the battle of Loos-en-Gohelle in Pas-de-Calais.

   Rudyard was dismayed, he had self-reproach and his wife’s reproach. He wanted to know what was happening to John. He looked at the photos of the prisoners of war, and at the lists of wounded. And after the war he came to Pas-de-Calais in the places where he could find a trace of John. He visited cemeteries between Lens and La Bassée (Loos, Hulluch, Vermelles, Auchy les mines…). He was so British (smart, lorgnette, top hat, Rolls Royce...) that the residents called him: “the Rolls Royce man”. Nothing, no trace of John!

   In 1930, in Loos, Rudyard Kipling had to speak in the name of the Memorial War Graves for the inauguration of the war memorial. He couldn’t speak, he was too much moved and affected… Did you know that it’s Rudyard Kipling who chose the epitaph “known unto God”?

   Rudyard Kipling died on the 18th of January 1936. He never had any news of his son. A few years before his death he wrote: “If anybody wants to know why they died, tell him, it’s because our fathers have lied “.

 

In 1990, the body of John was finally identified in a military grave in the cemetery of Haisnes-les-La Bassée. John was 18 years old when he died.