If I was going to go to Ambleside, I had a few things that were a must-see. One of these things had to do with the artist Jean Francois Millet. Years ago, I read about how in 1900, the then-famous artist Fred Yates came to Scale How to give a the college students a talk on Millet. Mr. Yates had no prints with which to illustrate his talk but the lecture rooms had been freshly whitewashed.
Feeding The Young by Millet, 1850
“What a lovely surface, ” he said. “Charcoal will easily rub off.” He then chalked from memory upon the walls his admirable reproductions of The Sower, the Angelus and other Millet masterpieces. Then he gave his lecture. Miss Mason when she saw them insisted that the drawings should be fixed to preserve them for students to come. (from The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 85)
Were these still there? I had to know. My friend, Sheila Carroll, told me that when she visited Ambleside they were indeed still on the walls, although she had to ask someone to move the merchandise covering them up. That was more than 10 years ago.
Over the years, I have read how important Millet was in the PNEU schools. Mason
particularly liked Feeding The Young. Art Middlekauf shared with us at last year’s CMI conference that she used this print in her poetry commentary on the Bible, The Saviour of the World. Mr. Yates’s lectures on Millet can be read in the digital archives, too.
So the first day of visiting, I set out to see if they were still on the walls. Dr. John Thorley, former president of the Charlotte Mason College, started out with me to the Millet building on the campus. I was a bit crestfallen as we couldn’t even get near the little building because major construction was being conducted on many of the buildings on campus. A large man in a construction helmet came over to the fence we were standing behind. Dr. Thorley started reminiscing with him about the appearance of the campus over the years. Oh well.
As we turned to go, I turned back. I may never come to this place again, so I decided to just ask him. So I did. The large man, who happened to be the supervisor on the project, hesitated for a moment. Then he walked over to one of his co-workers and talked to him for a bit. He then came back and said, “Follow me, just be careful.”
We entered the dimly lit building, stepping over paint cans and ladders. And there they were. Still on the walls, preserved perfectly, simply beautiful.
|Charlotte Mason portrait by Fred Yates at the Armitt Museum