John Everett Millais (1829-1896)

A child prodigy in art, John Everett Millais entered the Royal Academy Schools at age 11, and exhibited at the RA from age 17. There he became friends first with Holman Hunt, and afterwards Rossetti, and these three founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. Millais quickly moved from a mannerist to a realistic style in keeping with the Pre-Raphaelite ideal, and was coached by John Ruskin who took him to Scotland to paint in 1853. Millais produced the most well-known portrait of the famous critic in 1854, and incidentally married the wife of Ruskin after the latter's marriage was annulled. (She was the model for the soldier's wife in The Order of Release).

Millais's pictures include Cymon and Iphigenia, Lorenzo and Isabella, his first Pre-Raphaelite image, The Carpenter's Shop (much derided by Charles Dickens), Ferdinand lured by Ariel, Ophelia, with Elizabeth Siddall, later wife of Rossetti, in the title role, and subsequently The Vale of Rest and Autumn Leaves.

Millais at home

He thrived at the Royal Academy, becoming ARA as early as 1853, then RA and finally, in the year of his death, President of the Academy. However, his art became more popular, and he turned to pictures of society ladies, little girls, and fashionable lovers. His St Isumbras at the Ford, showing the knight and two oversweet children on an oversize horse, induced the young Frederick Sandys to draw a famous caricature featuring Millais as the knight, Rossetti and Holman Hunt as the children, and the donkey as John Ruskin.

Millais was also a notable illustrator during the 1860s, and worked much more consistently in this medium than most of the other Pre-Raphaelites. His important illustrations include six for Allingham's The Music Master, 18 for Moxon's Tennyson, two for Willmott's Poets of the 19th Century and 40 in Trollope's Orley Farm. Orley Farm in fact appeared originally in serial form in The Cornhill Magazine, and there are further Millais illustrations in this magazine, in Good Words, in Once a Week and in other periodicals.

Work by Millais can be seen at the Tate Gallery (Ophelia and The Vale of Rest), Birmingham (The Blind Girl), Manchester (Autumn Leaves), Liverpool (Lorenzo and Isabella at the Walker Art Gallery), Port Sunlight (St Isumbras at the Ford and The Black Brunswicker at the Lady Lever Gallery), and at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Return of the Dove to the Ark). The Bride of Lammermoor is in Bristol. The Convalescent and Brighteyes are in the Aberdeen art gallery. Portraits by Millais can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery. A very early work, before Millais became a Pre-Raphaelite, is in Hove.

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