There is no malaise involved with the art of John Millais

The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, PRA who was born in Southampton, on 8th June 1829, a prominent Jersey-based family.  Millais was an English painter and illustrator and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

At the tender age of eleven, Millais became a student at the Royal Academy schools and it was here that he met William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti with whom he formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in September 1848 in his family home on Gower Street, off Bedford Square.

Art critic John Ruskin defended the Pre-Raphaelites against their critics and Millais’ friendship with Ruskin introduced him to Ruskin’s wife Effie. Soon after they met she modelled for his painting The Order of Release. As Millais painted Effie they fell in love. Despite having been married to Ruskin for several years, Effie was still a virgin. Her parents realized something was wrong and she filed for an annulment. In 1855, after her marriage to Ruskin was annulled, Effie and John Millais married. He and Effie eventually had eight children.

  • Millais’ relationship with Ruskin and Effie has been the subject of several dramas, beginning with the 1912 silent film The Love of John Ruskin.
  • There have also been stage and radio plays and an opera. An upcoming film, Effie, written by Emma Thompson, features Tom Sturridge as Millais.
  • The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood have been the subjects of two BBC period dramas; The Love School (1975), starring Peter Egan as Millais; and Desperate Romantics, (2009) in which Millais is played by Samuel Barnett
  • Millais died on 13th August, 1896.

It was painted in situ on Budleigh Salterton beach with Millais’s sons Everett and George as models for Raleigh and his brother. The painting has been parodied many times in various cartoons such as the one above, featured in A Century of Punch Annual (1956) entitled “Oh Lord! Here He Goes Again…“. (see below):

Meanwhile, the original, The Boyhood of Raleigh (1870) oil on canvas (120.6cm x 142.2 cm) is part of the Tate Gallery collection. It was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871. It represents the heroic Imperialism in late Victorian Britain. It depicts the young Sir Walter Raleigh and his brother sitting on a Devonshire beach listening to a fisherman lecture them on the adventure of life on the high seas. It is supposedly influenced from James Anthony Froude’s essay on Elizabethan sea-farers, entitled: “England’s Forgotten Worthies.”

  • You can see other artists covered on this site at my A-Z Artists page.

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