John Everett Millais Artist Biography

A founder member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Everett Millais was well-known for his great technical brilliance in landscape and portraiture works. He became especially renowned for works like Lorenzo and Isabella and Blind Girl, even while facing critiques over his style.

John Everett Millais was born in Southampton. His parents recognized his precocious talent and moved to London when John was 9. That year he won the Silver Medal for drawing from the Royal Society of Arts in London. A child prodigy, at the age of eleven Millais became the youngest student to enter the Royal Academy Schools. and won a succession of prizes, including the Gold Medal in 1847.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded at his family home in London, and John Everett Millais became the most famous exponent of the style. Millais first Pre-Raphaelite painting was Lorenzo and Isabella (1849). His painting of the following year Christ in The House of His Parents (1850) was received with much controversy because of its realistic portrayal of a working class Holy Family laboring in an untidy carpentry workshop. Charles Dickens said it showed the lowest depths of what is mean, repulsive, and revolting. It was strongly defended by the leading English art critic John Ruskin who subsequently became a close friend of Millais.

Millais's personal life has played a significant role in his reputation. In 1855 Millais married Effie Chalmers, who had previously been married to John Ruskin and thereby ended his friendship. Effie Chalmers became a powerful promoter of his work and they worked in concert to secure commissions and expand their social and intellectual circles. They lived in Perth in Scotland until 1861 when they returned to London and Millais began painting society portraits.

Between 1855 and 1864 Millais made illustrations for numerous publications, including the Moxon edition of Tennysons poems (1857) and several novels by Trollope.

His later works, from the 1870's onwards demonstrate his reverence of old masters such as Joshua Reynolds and Deigo Velzquez. Many of these were of an historical theme and indicate his interest in British history and the expanding empire. This broader style was condemned by Ruskin as a catastrophe and William Morris accused him of selling out to achieve popularity and wealth.

In 1885 Millais was created a baronet and in 1896 he was elected President of the Royal Academy of Arts, but sadly he died later that year. He is buried in St Paul's Cathedral. 

More art prints from John Everett Millais

Lorenzo and Isabella By John Everett Millais
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