The North-West Passage

In The North-West Passage, Millais used a retired sailor named Captain Trelawny for the old mariner.  Trelawny was described affectionately as a “jolly old pirate” and had a colorful past to prove it. The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, written by the artist’s son, mentions briefly that Trelawny was once abducted by…
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The Bridge of Sighs

The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais is my go-to source when blogging about Millias’ works. Written by his son John Guille Millais, it was published in 1899 as a two-volume set that is filled with biographical information and anecdotes about Millais works, models, and themes.  It is an invaluable resource for me and…
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Miss Beatrice Buckstone

Beatrice Buckstone posed for three of Millais’ works.   She was the granddaughter of actor/comedian John Baldwin Buckstone.  Finding Shakespeare has an interesting post showing Buckstone’s guestbook signature on his visit to the Bard’s birthplace, along with biographical information about the actor.  Millais’ son wrote about her in The Life and Letters of Sir John…
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Embrace the Night

The day has its own bright beauty. Morning may bring the possibility of a new beginning, but at night, everything slows down and the world takes on a different mood.  Night wears a deeper hue, things become varying shades of blues and purples.  It’s a slower form of beauty.  Introspective and melancholy. Is it any wonder…
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‘Mariana’, Sir John Everett Millais

When Millais first exhibited this painting at the Royal Academy, he displayed it with these lines of Tennyson: She only said, ‘My life is dreary- He cometh not’ she said She said ‘I am aweary, aweary – I would that I were dead.’ –From Tennyson’s poem Mariana The subject of Mariana was visited twice by…
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Her enchanted hair

And  her enchanted hair was the first gold./And still she sits, young while the earth is old –from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sonnet Lady Lilith Lilith appears here with pale skin and clad in a white gown, making her luxurious hair the most vivid thing in the room.  In this painting, Dante Gabriel Rossetti is not…
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Millais’ Ghostly Apparition

When it comes to ghost stories, the Victorians were absolutely the best. It was an era that birthed Industrialism and scientific discovery, yet people held firmly to superstition and folklore. Death closely hovered around every family, regardless of wealth or class. Mourning was so common that there were societal rules about it that were to…
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Welcoming Autumn

I’m particularly happy to welcome Autumn this year, with its crisp breezes and the promise of adventure.  Autumn Leaves, painted by Sir John Everett Millais, is a wonderful example of the beauty I find in the season.  It is an impressive example of a Pre-Raphaelite twilight and Millais has captured an unmistakable Autumn glow.  His…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: The Tempest

In The Tempest, Shakespeare tells us the story of Prospero, duke of Milan.  Prospero was dethroned by his brother Antonio and abandoned at sea with his three year old daughter Miranda.  Eventually they landed on an enchanted island, where the sole inhabitant is the creature Caliban.  Prospero works his magic and places Caliban and all…
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The lure of water-women

In Rossetti’s 1853 drawing Boatmen and Siren, one of the boatmen is captivated by the siren, but is saved from certain death by his companion.  The accompanying inscription was written by Jacopo da Lentino, a Italian poet of the Rennaissance era whose work was translated by Rossetti in The Early Italian Poets: I am broken,…
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Love, Death and Potted Plants

William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil is currently in the news with the recent announcement that the Delaware Art museum will be auctioning the painting tomorrow.  The work has been in their collection since 1947 and it is sad news indeed that the Delaware has to sell it and three other works…
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Ophelia’s Flowers

When John Everett Millais painted Ophelia he chose to depict her in the moments just before she drowns, a bold choice as most previous artists portrayed Ophelia before she ever enters the water.  This isn’t the only striking aspect of his painting, however.  In the midst of this picture of death, the plant life is…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: Portia

The model for Millais’ painting of Portia has often been incorrectly identified as Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. The model was Kate Dolan, although the mistake was understandable as she was painted wearing Ellen Terry’s costume: Of course I will lend you the dress (here it is.) or anything in the world that I possess, that…
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Effie Millais describes ‘Apple Blossoms’

Apple Blossoms captures a relaxing outing on a spring day.  Liverpool Museums points out that there are many different ways to interpret this painting, especially with the odd appearance of a scythe on the right hand side of the picture. On the face of it, this is a picture about youth and beauty, but it has…
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Miss Anne Ryan

Anne Ryan is the lovely model whose mysterious fate we can never know.  Appearing in The Huguenot and The Proscribed Royalist, her later life is hinted at in The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais: Alas for Miss Ryan! her beauty proved a fatal gift: she married an ostler, and her later history…
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Unfinished story of unselfish love

I took the title of this post from this paragraph written in The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, written by his son: “The Huguenot” was the first of a series of four pictures embracing “The Proscribed Royalist”, “The Order of the Release” and “The Black Brunswicker”, each of which represents a more…
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To live forgotten, and die forlorn

And on the liquid mirror glow’d The clear perfection of her face, ‘Is this the form,’ she made her moan, ‘That won his praises night and morn?’ –Alfred, Lord Tennyson Mariana in the South   Like the Lady of Shalott, Mariana lives a secluded existence. The subject of Mariana was visited twice by Tennyson, in…
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Gowns so white and fair

On Sunday, I chose The Somnambulist as the Image of the Week.  It is a captivating image and many speculate that it is inspired by the Wilkie Collins novel, The Woman in White.  Millais was a close friend to both Wilkie Collins and his brother, artist Charles Collins.  The Life and Letters of Sir John…
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Image of the Week: Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves , Sir John Everett Millais. Models: Millais’ sisters-in-law modeled for two of the girls, the other two were local girls, who also appeared in Millais’ painting The Blind Girl. John Ruskin, who incidentally has previously been married to the artist’s wife Effie Millais, wrote about Autumn Leaves, saying: “by much the most poetical work the artist…
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This is what Pre-Raphaelite obsession leads to

About a year ago, I was lucky enough to acquire a two volume set of The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, written by his son in 1898.  It’s a beautiful set that I’ve longed to own, but was unable to give it the attention it deserves as my husband was still recuperating…
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