John Everett Millais

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Sir John Everett Millais, (8 June 1829 - 13 August 1896) was an English artist from a prominent Jersey-based family. He was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Early life

Millais was born in Southampton, England in 1829. He came from a Jersey family and his mother was returning to the island for his birth when he arrived prematurely. He lived in Jersey until he entered Sass's Drawing School at the early age of nine. Two years later he entered the Royal Academy Schools, where he stayed for six years. He was a child-prodigy of such exceptional promise to be admitted to the Royal Academy Schools at the age of eleven. Ruskin records an anecdote of his youthful talent which suggests that he could draw with complete adult assurance at the age of seven. Unlike most other aspiring painters he was given every encouragement in the pursuit of his chosen career, his parents even moving from their home in Jersey to allow him to study in London. His amazing facility of hand and eye, coupled with the most thorough and vigorous training available, allowed him to accomplish astonishing feats of technical proficieney. He maintained a consistently high degree of accurate representation, for which he was accorded the unstinted admiration of the public.

Hunt and Rossetti

At the Royal Academy he met the painters Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three young students were disappointed with their teaching and the prevailing High Victorian style. They believed that the idealistic manner of painters such as Frederic Leighton had deprived art of a true spirit. With others they founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. The name of the movement refers to their artistic influences coming from art made before the Renaissance artist Raphael (1483-1520) - medieval art.

Millais marked the establishment of the movement by including the initials PRB on the bench where Lorenzo and Isabella are seated in his masterpiece from that era, Lorenzo and Isabella. The movement only lasted a few years, despite the fact that the founding members continued to work in a similar manner.

Millais' painting of Lillie Langtry
Millais' signature

John Ruskin

Millais met John Ruskin, the British art critic who supported the cause of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1851. The two men spent some time in Scotland in 1853 where Millais became close to Ruskin’s wife Effie Gray, whom he later married. Millais was greatly influenced by the teaching of Ruskin and his truth to nature dogma. Ruskin praised Millais’s work comparing him with the other important British painter Turner. However Ruskin and Millais’s friendship broke up when the painter devoted himself to painting portraits of famous people (around 1880), an art form that Ruskin considered a sell-out of Millais’s talents.

Millais was awarded a baronetcy and enjoyed, at the height of his success, an income of £30,000 per year. Ironically all this adulation was accorded to Millais' later works, when the demands of his growing family, and probably also of his own temperament, had led him to abandon Pre-Raphaelitism in favour of portrait painting (he became one of the most successful English portrait painters of the age) and of popular historical and genre subjects.

Millais painted a famous portrait of Lillie Langtry, the Jersey-born actress. It is said that they spoke to each other in Jerriais during the sitting.

Millais was elected a Royal Acedemician in 1863 and a President of the Royal Academy in 1896 when already ill with cancer. When he died he was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral next to Frederic Leighton.

Family tree


Millais' family tree

External links

We showed seven links to external sites with further information about Millais and his work. Unfortunately all are now inactive.

1971 stamp issue

Millais photographs

Gallery of Millais works

Click on image to see larger picture

Millais painting sold

This portrait by Millais was sold by Christie's in London in June 2016 for £602,500. It is a painting of 19-year-old barmaid Annie Miller, which Millais painted in 1854, when he was 25. Christie's catalogue for the sale said:Violet's Message is an intimate, jewel-like picture that Millais painted in 1854 at a critical moment in his personal and professional life. It is one of the few oils from the artist's Pre-Raphaelite period still in private hands and represents Millais' incisive move to painting contemporary life, as well as signalling the transition in advanced British art from Pre-Raphaelism to Aestheticism.'
Spring (detail)
Lady of Shalott
The Wrestlers
Three daughters
A Flood
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