The present sheet belongs to a distinctive group of landscape drawings and sketches resulting from Millet’s stay in the spa town of Vichy, in the Allier département of central France, in the summers of 1866, 1867 and 1868. Accompanying his wife to the spas of the resort town, to which she had been sent for her health, Millet made dozens of drawings of the hills and farmland around Vichy - in pencil, pen and watercolour - which were worked up into finished paintings and pastels upon his return to his studio in Barbizon. Millet’s practice was to rent a carriage and explore the surroundings of Vichy, in particular the hilly landscape above the nearby town of Cusset. He seems to have been attracted to the scenery around Vichy and the Auvergne region, which reminded him of the landscapes of his childhood in Normandy, and in particular the way in which the undulating features of the landscape would partially hide the farms and buildings beyond them. Typical of Millet’s Vichy landscapes is a subtle tonal palette and a complete focus on the elements of the view, with an absence of human figures or animals. It has also been suggested that the composition of these landscape drawings at Vichy, characterized by high horizon lines, bare foregrounds and a precise but spare use of ink lines, may have been inspired by Japanese colour woodcut prints, which Millet had been studying and collecting with enthusiasm since 1863. It was these summers in Vichy that may be said to have led Millet from being a painter of peasant subjects, albeit placed within a landscape setting, to a painter of pure landscapes.
The attribution of the present sheet has been confirmed by Alexandra Murphy, who suggests that the drawing may have been completed in Barbizon, based on earlier pen or pencil sketches made in Vichy. A drawing such as this, with evidence of colour notes, seems to have been intended as a working study rather than an independent watercolour, and indeed it has been estimated that up to a quarter of the drawings produced by Millet at Vichy were later developed into finished compositions for sale.