Sunday, 13 December 2015


“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.” - Leo Tolstoy

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, PRA (8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896) was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A child prodigy, Millais was the youngest ever student to enter the prestigious Royal Academy Schools at just age 11. There he met William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Together they rebelled against the teachings of their tutors and formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood rejected High Renaissance artists like Raphael and instead were inspired by earlier artists, like Botticelli. Millais befriended the influential art critic John Ruskin, who supported the Pre-Raphaelites and promoted their work. Millais fell in love with Ruskin’s wife Effie, and married her, after the Ruskins’ marriage collapsed.

Millais' most controversial painting was “Christ In The House Of His Parents” (1850 - see above). Critics disliked it because it represented Christ in a human way and portrayed his family as low-class workers, rather than divine figures. He became increasingly popular and in later life created one of his best known works “A Child’s World” (also known as “Bubbles”). It caused outcry when it was used to advertise Pears Soap after the company bought the painting’s copyright. Some art critics felt this degraded the painting but Millais was powerless to stop it.

Other important works include “The Princes In The Tower”, “Ophelia” and “The Order Of Release”. 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 Kinnoull parish church, Perth. He also provided illustrations for magazines such as “Good Words”.

Millais 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. In July 1885, Queen Victoria created him a Baronet, of Palace Gate, in the parish of St Mary Abbot, Kensington, in the county of Middlesex, and of Saint Ouen, in the Island of Jersey, making him the first artist to be honoured with a Hereditary Title. After the death of Lord Leighton in 1896, Millais was elected President of the Royal Academy, but he died later in the same year from throat cancer. He was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.

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