Francis Davis Millet(Frontpage)  (What's New)  (Thumbnail_Index)

Sampling of Works by Millet

The Artist's Bedroom in Antwerp
c. 1871-73 

Turkish Water Seller

The Turkish Guard or
A Bashi-Bazouk 
c. 1877-78 

Reading the Story of Oenone
c. 1882

A Cosey Corner

Mr. Sargent at work on Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

A Difficult Duet

Old Harmonies

How the Gossip Grew

Playing with Baby

Between Two Fires
c. 1892

The Expansionist

Wandering Thoughts
Francis Davis Millet 
American artist

"Frank" D. Millet was the host of this small Broadway colony with his Farnham House (1885) and then the Russell House (1886-) being the two successive Broadway homes. He was 39 when he and Sargent were at Broadway in '85. 

Frank was one of those guys that seemed to have his hand into just about everything. He had boundless energy -- was capable and endowed with an amazing array of talents -- a real Renaissance guy. He was connected with the highest levels socially and in the art world. The digested bio of him pegs him as an American Painter, but he was much more than that. He was an illustrator and writer, a war correspondent, he translated Tolstoy, and even had the presence to die heroically (sort of) at the age of 66. If there was ever a need to tell a good story, it must be of Frank Millet's life.

* * * 

Frank was born at Mattapoisett, Mass, on November 3, 1846. He was a drummer boy with the Union forces in the Civil War, graduated from Harvard college with a degree in literature in 1869. Two years later ('71) he entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium. 

He returned to the States in '75 to become a correspondent for the "Advertiser" at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. In 1876, he painted murals at Trinity Church with John LaFarge.

During the Russian Turkish War of 1877-78, he became a war correspondent for several newspapers both in American and England, and for which he was decorated twice by the Russian government. Afterwards he got himself appointed one of the United States members to the international art jury for the Paris Exposition of 1878. 

He married Elizabeth Merrill in Paris the following year ('79). Elizabeth, or Lily as she was called -- a stunningly beautiful, intelligent, and engaging woman, was a sister of Frank's friend from Harvard. Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Mark Twain (the latter Frank would paint) were the witnesses at their marriage. They would have four children: Edwin after Edwin Abbey, Kate, Laurence, and John Alfred Parsons Millet --  named after both Sargent and Alfred Parson. All the children were at Broadway when Sargent was there.  He exhibited art at the Salon in Paris, the Royal Academy in London. In 1887 he translated an English version of Tolstoy's "Sebastopol". He was director of the decorations at the Columbia exposition, Chicago, 1893, involved with the men of the City Beautiful Movement, and in 1898 at the age of 52, he went to the Philippines again as a war correspondent. 

If there was anything important going on, Millet seemed to be there. It would be on his way back to New York from London alone (without his wife and family) that he would finally find himself in the right place but at the wrong time. On Sunday April 14th, 1912, Millet booked first class passage on the maiden voyage of the Royal Mail Ship Titanic. At 2:20 am the following morning after having struck an iceberg, she sank below the surface of the cold North Atlantic. Francis Davis Millet was last seen helping women and children into lifeboats.

Can you believe it? What a guy! What a life! 

The list of his accomplishments is long. In 1880 Millet became a member of the Society of American Artists, and in '85 was elected to the National Academy of design, New York. He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during some of the formative years; secretary of the American Academy at Rome and Vice chairman of the Fine Arts committee; was on the advisory committee of the National Gallery of Art; and was instrumental in getting an old friend from his Antwerp days, Otto Grundman, successfully appointed Director of the newly formed School of the Museum of the Fine Arts in Boston.

His easil work was predominately period genera scenes which were popular with the English public. His home at Broadway afforded him a perfect setting and frame of mind for painting things and places from long ago, as Broadway itself had a feel of a place that time forgot.

A firm believer in the decorative arts - his works could be seen at Trinity church, Boston; the Bank of Pittsburgh; the capitol at St. Paul, Minn.; the old Hudson Court House, NY; Essex County Court House, Newark; the Customs House in Baltimore; and the Federal Building in Cleveland. His pictures are in many public collections, among them being "A Cosy Corner" in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and "Between Two Fires" in the Tate gallery, London. Besides his translation of Tolstoy, he also wrote essays and short stories. Among his publications are "The Dnnude"(1891), "Capillary Crime and Other Stories" (1892) and "Expedition to the Philippines" (1899).

By many accounts he was a capable crafted artists but some lamented that he hadn't spent all his energy just with literature and writing which he was good at.

  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 15, William Benton, 1962 P.498
  • Stanley Olson, "John Singer Sargent, His Portrait", pp. 120-123
* * * 

For Sargent to have had the luck to become associated with, and even befriended by such a man, presented such an opportunity for the young artists. In the shadow of his darker moment the time at Broadway would forever turn the tide and eventually open doors that most artist can only dream of.

Other oil paintings that Sargent did were

  • 1885, "Picking Roses, Broadway (Miss Millet and Kate)" 36 x 24.
  • 1886, "Mrs. Frank D. Millet", inscribed: To my friend Mrs. Millet John S. Sargent. 35 ½ x 27 ½, Dr. John Alfred Parsons Millet. 
  • 1886-87?, "Laurence Millet
  • 1886, "Lawrence Millet" (unfinished). 18 x 15
  • 1886, "Kate Millet", 18 x 18
  • 1886, "A Girl With a Sickle", inscribed: To Lily Millet [Frank's sister] from her old friend John S. Sargent. 23 ½ x 15 ½ 
  • "John Alfred Parsons Millet" was painted by Sargent as a small child (painting in Manoogian collection I believe, or was)
During the painting of Carnation, Lilly, Lilly, Rose, Frank Millet drew a caricature of Sargent's painting.



From: David Laurence Flynn
<DF ly>
Date: Monday, February 2, 2004 

[For some time I have enjoyed following your research of my Great Grandfather Francis Davis Millet along with the artists around him; and have noticed you have Sargent's painting of Laurence Millet whom I am partly named after.]

As children we use to laugh about the paintings of Laurence and John Alfred Parsons (Uncle Jack to us ) by Sargent. I had the fortune to see the painting of Laurence about twenty-five years ago. At that point in time it was in the hands of a descendent of the person who my grandfather had bartered it for dental services. 

I see that you have also posted Wandering Thoughts. That is presently in the possession of a Millet descendent. It is a wonderful painting. I will inquire about it date of creation and get back to you. 

As you probably already know my Great Grandfather was part of the tile club. Members included people like Edwin Austin Abbey, Winslow Homer, and J. Alden Weir, and Alfred Parsons, to name a few artists. I think that he had invited Sargent but he never quite made it. 

Lily actually had four children, [previously you had mentioned three.] The first child was named Edwin after Edwin Abbey. He never made it past infancy and is buried in Massachusetts. 

Well, that is enough for now.

David Laurence Flynn


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2004 all rights reserved
Created 3/31/2003
Updated 2/2/2004