"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,
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,
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
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
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
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
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
During the painting of Carnation,
Lilly, Lilly, Rose, Frank Millet drew a caricature
of Sargent's painting.
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, "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
Alfred Parsons Millet" was painted by Sargent as a small child
(painting in Manoogian collection I believe, or was)
From: David Laurence Flynn
<DF ly firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
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