John Everett Millais

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John Everett Millais (June 8, 1829August 13, 1896) was a British painter and illustrator who was one of founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

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The Blind Girl (1856)

Life and Work

Millais was born in Southampton of a prominent Jersey-based family. His prodigious artistic talent won him a place at the Royal Academy schools at the unprecedented age of eleven. While there, he met William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti with whom he formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848.

Pre-Raphaelite works

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Ophelia (1852)

Millais' Christ in the House of his Parents (1850) was highly controversial because of its realistic portrayal of a working class Holy Family labouring in a messy carpentry workshop. Later works were also controversial, though less so. Millais achieved popular success with A Huguenot (1852), which depicts a young couple about to be separated because of religious conflicts. He repeated this theme in many later works.

All these early works were painted with great attention to detail, often concentrating on the beauty and complexity of the natural world. In paintings such as Ophelia (1852) Millais created dense and elaborate pictorial surfaces based on the integration of naturalistic elements. This approach has been described as a kind of "pictorial eco-system".

This style was promoted by the critic John Ruskin, who had defended the Pre-Raphaelites against their critics. Millais' friendship with Ruskin introduced him to Ruskin's wife Effie. Soon after they met she modelled for his painting The Order of Release. As Millais painted Effie they fell in love. Despite having been married to Ruskin for several years, Effie was still a virgin. Her parents realized something was wrong and she filed for an annulment. In 1856, after her marriage to Ruskin was annulled, Effie and John Millais married.

Later works

After his marriage, Millais began to paint in a broader style, which was condemned by Ruskin as "a catastrophe". It has been argued that this change of style resulted from Millais's need to increase his output to support his growing family. Unsympathetic critics such as William Morris accused him of "selling out" to achieve popularity and wealth. His admirers, in contrast, pointed to the influence of Whistler and Impressionism. Millais himself argued that as he grew more confident as an artist, he could paint with greater boldness. In his article "Thoughts on our art of Today" (1888) he recommended Velzquez and Rembrandt as models for artists to follow.

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The North-West Passage (1874)
The Boyhood of Raleigh (1871)
The Boyhood of Raleigh (1871)

Paintings such as The Eve of St. Agnes and The Somnambulist clearly show the influence of Whistler, whose work Millais strongly supported. Other paintings of the 1860s can be interpreted as part of the Aesthetic Movement. Many deploy broad blocks of harmoniously arranged colour. Later works, from the 1870s onwards demonstrate Millais's reverence for Rembrandt. Notable among these are The North West Passage (1874) and the Boyhood of Raleigh (1871). These paintings indicate Millais's interest in subjects connected to Britain's expanding empire and world-wide explorations. His last project was to be a painting depicting a white explorer lying dead in the African veldt, his body contemplated by two indifferent Africans. This fascination with wild and bleak locations is also evident in his many landscape paintings of this period, which usually depict difficult or dangerous terrain. The first of these, Chill October (1870) was painted in Perth, near his wife's girlhood home. Many others were painted elsewhere in Perthshire, near Dunkeld, where Millais rented a house each autumn in order to hunt and fish. Millais also achieved great popularity with his paintings of children, notably Bubbles (1886) – famous, or perhaps notorious, for being used in the advertising of Pears' soap – and Cherry Ripe.


Millais was also very successful as a book illustrator, notably for the works of Anthony Trollope and the poems of Tennyson. His complex illustrations of the parables of Jesus were published in 1864. His father-in-law commissioned stained-glass windows based on them for a church in Perth.

Academic career

Millias was elected as an associate member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1853, and was soon elected as a full member of the Academy, in which he was a prominent and active participant. He was granted a baronetcy in 1885, the first artist to be honoured with an hereditary title. After the death of Frederic Leighton in 1896, Millais was elected President of the Royal Academy, but he died later in the same year from throat cancer.

See also

Other notable work

The Blind Girl is in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery



Daly, Gay (1989). Pre-Raphaelites in love, Ticknor & Fields, New York.

External link

ja:ジョン・エヴァレット・ミレー pl:John Everett Millais


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