"The Artist's Harem Indifferent to the Vision of the Floating Hairy Breasts"

Jean François Millibar

The Depressionist French painter Millibar studied shepherding at the Sorbonne and took his advanced degree in the subject at the University of Heidelberg with a doctoral thesis on "Attitudinal Grazing and Territoriality Among Icelandic Merinos."
His coveted degree in hand, Millibar sought work as an applied, rather than as a theoretical shepherd. However, he was unprepared for the long months of isolation the job entailed, and quickly succumbed to "pshepherd's psychosis," wherein he would hold long meaningful conversations with his ovine charges, also engaging in head-butting contests with rams from other herds.


His analyst suggested art as a therapy, and thereafter Millibar could be seen in the fields hard at work at his easel while supervising his flock. He had a natural talent for painting, producing such early works as "Portrait of the Ewe Heloise," and the famous duo "The Maja Fleeced" and "The Maja Shorn," which caused such a scandal at the Paris Académie show in 1864.


Although as an artist he continued to improve, Millibar the person did not. His works began to take on a surrealistic quality as in the painting shown here, which is, as one critic described it, "such a clear demonstration of sexual frustration you could almost use it for a shop sign." Around this time the artist wrote to his family announcing his engagement to "the Lady Gigi of Fallowfields, who shows great promise of soon bringing you the grandchild you have so desired, as well as being a terrific milker." He goes on to describe his difficulty in finding an engagement ring for a #8 hoof.


Millibar ended his days in the La Salpêtrière asylum, convinced that he was the Great Ram mentioned in the Apocalypse of St John. He was unsuccessful in petitioning the French courts to have his "daughter," a white Dorset ewe he had nicknamed "Lambchop," declared his heir.

 

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