Friday, September 16, 2011

Pre-Raphaelites : John Everett Millais

"Autumn Leaves"


The pre-Raphaelites were a group of like-minded artists who formed a secret art group in the middle of the 19th century dedicated to the painting of works from nature by real observation and looking towards the style of works before Raphael and the Renaissance styles became popular. They were initially secret until they held their first exhibition in 1849 and they were met with rejection initially but after several years their work became more popular. This post is to give a brief history of one of the most well known John Millais.

John Everett Millais was one of the original founders of the movement, (the others being Rosetti and Hunt). He was born in Southhampton on 8 june 1829 into an affluent middle-class family of French descent. He was a naturally talented artist and joined the Royal Academy art school at age 11 where he completed the course by age of 16, being the youngest to do so. He was technically brilliant although he was criticised for lacking imaginative ability.

Isabella, painted in 1849 was the first major work that he painted and Ophelia 1851-1852, was the peak of this earlier period of his work. It is regarded as one of the best of the pre-raphaelite works. He rapidly grew to be a better artist than his contemporaries and gained further recognition with Autumn Leaves painted in 1855 which is seen as one of the greatest of the pre-raphaelite paintings. He had started out as a "rebel" against the establishment but through the 1860's and onwards to 1896 when he died he became more establishment material and gained entry to the Academy at age 24 before rising to be elected it's president in the year of his death.

His paintings were always the subject of much comment and usually praise. He became a portrait artist later in his career. He is regarded as the best of the Pre-raphaelites.

That's it for a brief synopsis of this artist. Check back for more articles about art history and technique which I will be posting on a continuous basis. Also you can see more of my current work as I progress them. Jim


Melanie-Pearl said...

I've always loved Ophelia---never much paid attention to who painted it or when it was painted. Haunting, that one. (Don't turn in your grave Millais, but that middle one reminds me of Max. Parrish.) Why was what the Pre-Raph were doing so controversial, though? Is it just b/c they were "pre" with the style?

Jim Shanahan said...

Hi Melanie, thanks for comment. I think they were controversial for a number of reasons. They signed all their paintings P.R.B. no other names and were a secret society at first. Also they painted religious paintings in true to life style, eg. Joseph the carpenter with dirt under his nails etc. These were some of the reasons for their initial controversy which faded over time. Jim