Thursday, July 12, 2007

Art Blogging: John Everett Millais

John Everett Millais (1829-1896) was a British Pre-Raphaelite painter. He hailed from the English middle class and, displaying a prodigious talent at an early age, became the youngest ever student at the Royal Academy in 1840. Along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt, he was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. Millais was famous for his attention to minute detail in his works, although he became increasingly spontaneous as he matured. This change came due to pressing financial needs which encouraged Millais to produce a greater output of work. Embracing Victorian sentimentality, Millais achieved financial success, but gained the derision of his colleagues within the Brotherhood. Nevertheless, he thrived as a portraitist, acquiring great wealth, a boronetcy, and at the end of his life, the Presidency of the Royal Academy.
Christ In The House of His Parents (oil on canvas, 1849-1850, at the Tate). This painting, which earned a scathing public review by Charles Dickens and thereby unintentionally catapulted Millais from obscurity to fame, is laden with symbolism, typical of Pre-Raphaelite narrative painting. It is a pictographic summary of the Gospel story: Christ has accidentally pierced his hand with a nail in his father's workshop, young John the Baptist rushes to bring him water to wash the wound, and a dove rests on a ladder in the background.

This painting was controversial because it depicted Christ not as martyr nor as a reigning king, but as a fragile, lanky boy. Dickens accused Millais of suggesting that Jesus was "wry-necked boy in a nightgown who seems to have received a poke playing in an adjacent gutter." His review led to widespread critical discussion of the contrasting values of Academicism and Pre-Raphaelitism, and thereby advanced the latter's publicity.

A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge (oil on canvas, 1852, at Manson and Woods). Inspired by Jakob Mayerbeer's 1838 opera The Huguenots, Millais composed this decidedly Protestant painting in the midst of an age of paranoia about Papal conspiracy theories.

The Order of Release, 1746 (oil on canvas, 1852-1853, at the Tate). In 1745, exiled Prince Charles ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") of the House of Stuart landed in Scotland and raised an army in an attempt to reclaim the throne. With most of the British Army occupied in Flanders and France, he almost succeeded. This vivid and colorful image depicts a Scottish woman securing the release of her P.O.W. husband.

1 comment:

T Michael W Halcomb said...


I sent you an email; was wondering if you'd be up for doing an intereview sometime soon?