Art Wednesday: Sir John Everett Millais

Sophie Gray

Artist: John Everett Millais (1829-1896)
Born: Southampton, UK
Founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Millais was born in Southampton, England in 1829. His talent got him a place at the prestigious Royal Academy School at the tender age of eleven, the youngest to ever entrant. In fact there are records that show he was drawing with confidences at the age of seven.

While at the Academy, Millais met William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and together they formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) in 1848.  At the start of Millais career he remained close to the principles of the the movement, but by the end of his career he had become one of the biggest paid artist of his time thanks to his more commercial Victorian paintings.  Millais was painting scenes that the Victorians wanted to see - beautiful imagines.

His most famous work, Christ in the House of His Parents (1850) was controversial because of its image of the Holy Family working in a dirty workshop (below).  Charles Dickson (who later became friends with Millais) thought this was a dreadful painting. 

He was an athletic, outdoors man, who loved hunting, shooting and fishing and popular amongst his peers.  He was vain, but kind and would only allow himself to be photographed in a certain way.  And he loved his wife and was a very indulgent father to his children.

The model, Lizzie Siddal lay in a bathtub for this painting, with the water heated by candles, however Millais became so engrossed in his painting the water went cold and Siddal almost died. Lizzie Siddal went on to marry Dante Rossetti another of the leading members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she was also a painter in her own right.  Lizze Siddal is the model in the painting below.
 The bridesmaid
 The North-West Passage
 Order of Release
The painting depicts the wife of a rebel Scottish soldier, who has been imprisoned after the Jacobite rising of 1745, arriving with an order securing his release. She holds her child, showing the order to a guard, while her husband embraces her.  The child is holding a flower, which the petals have slowly fallen to the ground.   The model in this painting was the wife of John Ruskin, who Millais fell in love with and married her some time later. Her annulment from Ruskin caused her to be considered an outcast for sometime, including not allow to visit Court.
Sweetest Eyes
 The Blind Girl
 The painting depicts two poor girls (beggars), one is blind - they are resting on the roadside after a shower of rain.  Sitting on the blind girls shawl is a butterfly and around her neck is a sign "pity the blind".
Millais three daughters
The Second Sermon (watercolour on paper)
The model is Millais second daughter Effie.
For the Squire
Chill October
This is one of Millais most famous paintings - why?
Because it was used to sell Pears' Soap!!

Photo of the artist in his older years



  1. Cinderella was my favourite. Some of the others were just not good - imho!

  2. Some of those are beautiful, others not my favourites... I quite like Cinderella, love Dew and even though the subject matter (ie. the person it is supposed to be depicting is somewhat questionable considering no-one knows how it really was), I quite like the carpenter one. :)

  3. My favourite has always been Ophelia and I also quite like Sweetest Eyes. I like particularly like the story behind "Order of Release". Its always interesting what people like or dislike about a painting.


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