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UC-NRLF 



SB ESS 




{National Gallery. 
A YEOMAN OF THE GUARD. 



Bell's Miniature Series of Painters 



SIR JOHN EVERETT 

MILLAIS 



BY A. L. BALDRY 




LONDON 

GEORGE BELL & SONS 
1908 



M663 



First Published, December, 1902. 
Reprinted, December, 1907. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

PAGE 

LIFE OF THE ARTIST i 

THE PRE-RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD 5 

LATER DEVELOPMENTS 12 

LAST YEARS 16 

THE ART OF MILLAIS 22 

OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 40 

THE CHIEF WORKS OF MILLAIS IN PUBLIC 

GALLERIES, ETC 59 



39537 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

TO FACE 
PAGE 

A YEOMAN OF THE GUARD . Frontispiece 

CHRIST IN THE HOUSE OF His PARENTS 6 

A SOUVENIR OF VELAZQUEZ 12 

THE VALE OF REST 26 

OPHELIA 44 

AUTUMN LEAVES 46 

THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE 52 

THOMAS CARLYLE 56 



SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

HIS LIFE 

A LTHOUGH John Everett Millais was born, 
jL\. on June 8,1829, at Portland Place, South- 
ampton, his father was an inhabitant of Jersey, 
and a member of a family which had been settled 
in that island from a date anterior to the Norman 
conquest. The first five years of the child's life 
were spent in Jersey, but in 1835 ne was taken by 
his parents to Dinan, in Brittany, where he began, 
by his sketches of the scenery of the place and 
the types of the people, to give the first convinc- 
ing proofs of the remarkable artistic capacity 
that was in him. These early efforts were so 
surprising, and attracted so much attention out- 
side his family circle, that when he was not more 
than nine years old he was brought to London 
for an expert opinion on his chances in the pro- 
fession for which he seemed predestined. The 
President of the Royal Academy, Sir Martin 
i B 



2 SIR JOHN IvHLLAIS 

Archer Shee. was consulted, and his encouraging 
declaration, that "Nature had provided for the 
boy's success," decided the future of the young 
artist, who was at once allowed to begin serious 
study. 

In 1838 he entered the drawing-school in 
Bloomsbury which was carried on by Henry 
Sass, and regarded as the best available place 
for the training of budding genius. In the 
same year he took the silver medal of the Society 
of Arts, for a drawing from the antique, and 
caused quite a sensation when he appeared, at 
the distribution of the prizes, to receive his award 
from the Duke of Sussex, who was presiding. 
The surprise of the spectators is said to have been 
unbounded when " Mr. Millais " came forward, 
a small child in a pinafore, to answer to his 
name, and even the officials at first found it hard 
to believe that he could be really the winner of 
the medal. 

For two years he remained under the tuition 
of Mr. Sass, and, helped by his teaching and by 
a good deal of work from the casts in the British 
Museum, the boy developed so rapidly that 
when he was only eleven years old he gained 
admission to the Royal Academy Schools, the 
youngest student, it is said, that has ever been 



HIS LIFE 3 

received into them. His career there was a 
series of successes. For six years he laboured 
indefatigably, and plainly proved his ability by 
taking prize after prize, beginning with a silver 
medal in 1843, and ending, in 1847, with the 
gold medal for a historical picture, The Tribe of 
Benjamin seizing the Daughters of Shiloh. 

Subjects of this type seem at that time to have 
attracted him strongly, and to have occupied a 
great deal of his attention, for in 1846 he had 
painted, and exhibited at the Academy, Pizarro 
seizing the Inca of Peru, which is now in the 
South Kensington Museum, and in the following 
year another study of violent action, Elgiva 
seized by Order of Archbishop Odo. To 1847 
also belongs the great design, The Widow 
bestowing her Mite, for the Westminster Hall 
competition, a canvas fourteen feet long by ten 
feet high, covered with life-size figures. Such 
an effort speaks well for the energy and ambition 
of a lad of eighteen, who could within the space 
of a few months carry out so vast an undertak- 
ing in addition to the Elgiva, and his gold 
medal picture. 

So far his progress had been, from the point of 
view of his elder contemporaries, very promising 
and satisfactory. He had proved himself to be 



4 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

possessed of unusual gifts; and apparently 
historical art was to have in him an exponent of 
rather a rare type, a painter who would carry on 
its traditions with some degree of vitality. But 
really he had only been feeling his way, and, not 
having had time as yet to analyse his inclinations, 
he had temporarily accepted, with youthful 
imitativeness, the precepts of his teachers and 
fellow-students. It did not take him long to 
discover that he was on the wrong track, and to 
decide that there was in another direction a far 
better opportunity for the assertion of his own 
independent convictions. 

About the middle of the year 1848, he, and 
his friends Rossetti and Holman Hunt, inspired 
partly by the example of Ford Madox Brown, 
and partly by their own study of the works of 
the Italian Primitives who, before the time of 
Raphael, had laboured with devout and simple 
naturalism, decided that the principles which 
guided the early masters were being deliberately 
ignored by the modern men. So these three 
youths agreed among themselves to break away 
from most of the regulations by which they had 
been bound in their student days and to 
formulate a new art creed of their own. From 
this agreement sprang into existence an associa- 



HIS LIFE 5 

tion, that, despite the small number of its mem- 
bers, and the shortness of its life, has left upon 
the history of the British School a mark clear 
and ineffaceable. 



THE PRE-RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD 

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, as this 
association was called by way of declaring the 
intentions and ambitions of the men who be- 
longed to it, was formally constituted during 
the autumn of 1848. It included, in addition 
to the three originators, two other painters, 
James Collinson and F. G. Stephens ; a sculptor, 
Thomas Woolner; and a writer, William Michael 
Rossetti, who acted as secretary of the Brother- 
hood. Ford Madox Brown never became a 
member, although he entirely sympathised with 
the artistic aims of the group, for he had, it is 
said, doubts concerning the utility of such a 
banding together, and was more inclined to 
favour independent action; but several other 
young painters, who were never formally of the 
company, gave it practical support, and openly 
adopted its methods. Indeed, the list of these 
outside sympathisers soon became a long one ; 
it included such able workers as William Bell 



6 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

Scott, Arthur Hughes, Thomas Seddon, W. L. 
Windus, and W. H. Deverell, who were directly 
inspired by the beliefs of the Brotherhood, and 
if, as would be quite legitimate, it were extended 
to take in all the others whose first essays in art 
were controlled by Pre-Raphaelite principles, an 
astonishing number of artists who have reached 
high rank in their profession could be added 
to it. 

At first the inner significance of the Pre- 
Raphaelite movement was lost upon the general 
public. When, in 1849, Millais exhibited at the 
Academy his Lorenzo and Isabella^ by which his 
adoption of the new creed was plainly enough 
asserted, the picture was not unkindly received. 
It was ridiculed, perhaps, by the people who 
realised that it showed an artistic intention 
somewhat unlike that which was then generally 
prevalent; but its novelty of manner was put 
down to the youth and inexperience of the 
artist, and was regarded as a minor defect that a 
few more years of practice would remedy. 

But in January, 1850, the Brotherhood took 
a step that very effectually removed any doubts 
that were felt by the public about the meaning 
of such canvases. They began to issue a monthly 
magazine, called "The Germ," in which they 




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HIS LIFE 7 

and their friends stated with sufficient frankness 
what Pre-Raphaelitism really meant, and what 
were the opinions that they professed. As a 
commercial speculation the magazine must be 
reckoned a failure, for after the fourth number 
it ceased to be issued, and at no time had it any 
general circulation. It served its purpose, how- 
ever, of making quite intelligible the creed of its 
promoters ; and it gave to the world certain 
etchings of Holman Hunt, Collinson, Madox 
Brown, and Deverell, and much literary matter 
by Coventry Patmore, Woolner, W. B. Scott, 
F. G. Stephens, the two Rossettis and their sister 
Christina, and some other writers. An etching 
was prepared by Millais for the fifth number, an 
illustration of a story that Dante Rossetti was to 
write ; but this fifth number did not appear. 

Though "The Germ" died so quickly for 
want of support, it had fully accomplished what 
was required of it in the way of propagandism. 
When the next batch of Pre-Raphaelite efforts 
was exhibited in the spring of 1850 there was no 
trace of hesitation or toleration in the comments 
of the older artists and the press. A perfect 
storm of abuse broke out. Against Ferdinand 
lured by Ariel and Christ in the House of His 
Parents^ which were the chief pictures sent by 



8 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

Millais to the Academy, the bitterest attack was 
directed. Everything that could be said or done 
to minimise their influence, and to discredit the 
motives by which they were inspired, was lavished 
upon them without restraint, in a kind of frenzy 
of anguished excitement. 

All this, however, was mild in comparison 
with the agitation in the following year, when it 
was seen that the Pre-Raphaelites, instead of 
bowing to the storm and recanting their opinions, 
were prepared to go to even greater lengths in 
the avowal of their convictions. The opposi- 
tion had done its best to howl them down, and 
to frighten them by ferocious threats ; but all 
this expenditure of misapplied energy had had 
no result. Millais exhibited The Woodman's 
Daughter, The Return of the Dove to the Ark, and 
Mariana in the Moated Grange, and Holman 
Hunt Valentine and Sylvia; while the other 
members of the group gave equally definite 
proofs of their intention to persevere in the 
course they had adopted. 

Alarm at this defiance, and perhaps an un- 
easy consciousness of the real strength of a 
movement that gave so little sign of yielding to 
pressure, drove the supporters of the existing 
condition of affairs to almost incredible lengths. 



HIS LIFE 9 

They demanded that these canvases should be 
removed from the exhibition of the Academy, 
summarily expelled as outrages on good taste ; 
they urged the students in the art schools to 
shun the Brotherhood and everyone connected 
with it ; they descended to the lowest depths of 
misrepresentation, and drew the line at nothing 
in the way of exaggeration. Calm and critical 
judgment ceased, for the moment, to exist, and a 
hysterical absence of balance threw into con- 
fusion even the best ordered and judicious 
minds. 

This outburst had one immediate effect, an 
unpleasant one for the young artists, it checked 
for a while the sale of their pictures. Christ in 
the House of His Parents had been painted on 
commission for a well-known dealer, and it re- 
mained for many years on his hands ; but Fer- 
dinand lured by Ariel, which had also been 
commissioned, was refused by the intending 
purchaser. It was afterwards sold to Mr. Richard 
Ellison, a collector of rare discrimination, who 
was introduced to Millais by a mutual friend. 
Other canvases belonging to the same period 
either returned from the exhibitions to the artist's 
studio, or were parted with at low prices and on 
terms of payment none too favourable. 



io SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

But after a little while things began to mend. 
The attack exhausted itself by its very excess of 
virulence ; and here and there strong men came 
forward to champion the cause of the Pre- 
Raphaelites. Mr. Ruskin, especially, appeared 
in the arena as an enthusiastic advocate of an 
undertaking that was in every way calculated to 
appeal to his vivid sympathies. He declared 
with acute and prophetic insight that the pil- 
loried artists were laying "the foundations of a 
school of art nobler than the world has seen for 
three hundred years." His explanations of their 
methods were just what were wanted to set people 
thinking. Some years, it is true, elapsed before 
his enthusiasm, and the dogged perseverance of 
the young men, finally converted the great ma- 
jority of art lovers ; but the conversion did come, 
and it was complete. 

Meanwhile Millais was manfully playing his 
part in the struggle, giving no sign that he 
minded being, as he put it in after years, " so 
dreadfully bullied." Nothing could shake his 
resolve to work out his artistic destiny in the 
way he thought best. Happily he was not entirely 
without encouragement from the chiefs of his own 
profession, for just at the time when the outside 
world was decrying him most strenuously, the 



HIS LIFE ii 

Academy elected him an Associate. This elec- 
tion, was, however, quashed, because he was 
discovered to be under the age at which admis- 
sion was possible, and it was not till 1853 tnat 
he was again chosen. By this time he had 
added to the list of his paintings his exquisite 
Ophelia^ The Huguenot, The Proscribed Royalist 
and The Order of Release, all works of the highest 
value, and regarded to-day as evidences of a 
quite extraordinary ability. 

For about ten years he remained faithful to 
the Pre-Raphaelite creed, and made no serious 
attempt to modify his methods. During this 
period appeared his Portrait of Mr. Ruskin, 
The Rescue, Autumn Leaves, The Blind Girl, 
Sir Isumbras at the Ford, The Vale of Rest, and 
Apple Blossoms, of which the last two are to be 
reckoned as to some extent transitional, leading 
the way to the later changes in both his theory 
and practice. What was to be the nature of 
these changes was foreshadowed by The Eve of 
St. Agnes, shown at the Academy in 1863, the 
year before his advancement to the rank of 
Royal Academician. This was the beginning of 
a period during which he wavered between re- 
collections of his earlier style and an obvious 
desire to find new ways of expressing himself. 



12 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

These variations in his production implied that 
he was just then uncertain as to the course 
which it would be best for him to follow. He 
recognised that there were many details of his 
youthful creed which had served their purpose 
and ought to be set aside. He was conscious 
of the possibilities that his wonderful command 
over his materials opened up to him, and he 
knew that his years of devoted study had given 
him an equipment of knowledge that would 
serve him in any emergency ; what he was seek- 
ing was the exact form in which to cast his 
efforts so as to allow full scope to his abilities 
and to make indisputable that wide popularity 
which was coming to him at last. 



LATER DEVELOPMENTS 

There was no hesitation about the avowal of 
his new views when finally he did make up his 
mind. With a suddenness that was absolutely 
startling, he abandoned the close and careful 
realism that marked in such canvases as Asleep, 
Awake, and The Minuet, the still-continuing in- 
fluence of his Pre-Raphaelite conviction, and 
chose instead the riotous freedom of touch, and 
the happy readiness of suggestion that make his 




[Burlington House. 
A SOUVENIR OF VELASQUEZ. 



HIS LIFE 13 

Souvenir of Velasquez, Rosalind and Celia, and 
Stella so impressive. The dramatic point of 
this change is that a year sufficed to bring it 
into active operation. In 1867 he was still 
anxious to work out bit by bit and part by part 
every fact that his subject might present, and, in 
his zeal for naturalism, to leave no chance of 
mistake about the exact meaning of his treat- 
ment ; in 1868 he had thrown himself heart and 
soul into the task of persuading his admirers to 
accept hints in the place of plain statements, 
and to understand subtle compromises with 
nature, instead of direct transcriptions of her 
assertions. 

Thenceforward his progress was an almost 
unbroken series of successes, gained by superb 
mastery of craftsmanship, and by the splendid 
confidence in himself that put his intentions 
always beyond the possibility of doubt. With 
few exceptions his pictures, to the end of his 
life, were worthy to rank with the best that the 
British school can show, great in accomplish- 
ment, admirable in style, and attractive always 
by their frankness of manner and purity of 
motive. In some ways he enlarged his borders, 
for in 1871 he made, with Chill October, his 
first digression into landscape without figures, 



14 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

and began that array of important studies of the 
open air which reveal most instructively his 
limitless patience and searching power of obser- 
vation. 

As a portrait painter also he developed super- 
lative gifts, adding year by year to a collection 
of masterpieces unequalled by any of his con- 
temporaries. He was fortunate in his sitters, 
and the list of his productions in this branch of 
art includes a large proportion of the most 
beautiful women and distinguished men who 
have graced the latter half of the century. He 
immortalised impartially leaders of fashion, 
pretty children, noted politicians, and people 
eminent in many professions ; and in his ren- 
dering of these various types he missed nothing 
of the individuality and distinctive character 
with which each one was endowed. Here espe- 
cially his Pre-Raphaelite training stood him in 
good stead ; for the habit of close analysis and 
careful investigation had been so impressed upon 
him by the experiences of his youth, that his 
instinctive judgment was now perfectly reliable, 
and his ability to decide promptly and with 
certainty about the aspects of his subject which 
were fittest for pictorial record had become ab- 
solutely complete. 



HIS LIFE 15 

In this succession of portraits some stand out 
commandingly as notable performances even 
for an artist who was always distinguished for 
example, Mrs. Bischoffsheim (1873), Miss Eveleen 
Tennant (1874), Mrs. Jopling (1879), Mrs. 
Perugini (1880), Sir Henry Irving (1884), The 
Right Hon. W. E, Gladstone (i885),/. C. Hook, 
R.A. (1882), and The Marquis of Salisbury 
(1883) marking great moments in his career; 
just as from time to time figure compositions of 
rare importance, like The North- West Passage 
(1874), Effie Deans (1877), The Princes in the 
Tower (1878), and Speak ! Speak I (1895), punc- 
tuated the progress of his intellectual and imagin- 
ative evolution. He was always, to the last day 
of his life, ambitious and eager to grapple with 
problems of technical expression. Courage to 
face the supreme difficulties of his profession 
never failed him. He had no idea of avoiding 
responsibilities, or of finding in an easy conven- 
tion a way to evade his duty to art ; and he tried 
consistently to bring his production up to the 
high level that would satisfy his ideals. When 
he missed his aim and there is no such thing 
as unvarying success for any artist it was not 
for want of thought or sincere effort, but rather 
from over-anxiety. He once said of himself, " I 



16 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

may honestly say that I never consciously put 
an idle touch upon canvas, and that I have 
always been earnest and hard-working ; yet the 
worst pictures I ever painted in my life are those 
into which I threw most trouble and labour " ; 
and in these few words he summed up his whole 
history. 

LAST YEARS 

It was characteristic of him that the honours 
which were heaped upon him in his later years 
should have diminished neither the strength of 
his work nor the charm of his personality. 
Affectation or self-consciousness were the last 
things that were possible to such a nature with 
its almost boyish energy and magnificent vitality. 
Yet he had every reason to be proud of success 
that had come to him, not by fortunate chance, 
but as a result of his own tenacity. He was 
made an Officer of the Legion of Honour, and 
received the Medaille d'Honneur at the Paris 
International Exhibition, in 1878; the degree 
of D.C.L. was conferred upon him at Oxford in 

1880, and at Durham in 1893; he was elected 
a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery in 

1 88 1, a Foreign Associate of the Academic des 
Beaux Arts in 1882, and President of the Royal 



HIS LIFE 17 

Academy in 1896 ; he was created a Baronet in 
1885, and an Officer of the Order of Leopold in 
1895 ; and was, besides, an Officer of the Order 
of St. Maurice, and the Prussian Order " Pour 
la Merite," and a member of the Academies of 
Vienna, Belgium, Antwerp, and of St. Luke, 
Rome, and San Fernando, Madrid. He was one 
of the few Englishmen invited to contribute his 
portrait to the great collection of pictures of 
artists painted by themselves in the Uffizi Gallery 
at Florence. Such a record proves most cogently 
the manner in which the public estimate of his 
capacity changed as years went on ; it is instruc- 
tive to compare its unanimity of recognition 
with the story of the time when art teachers were 
urging their pupils to greet the name of Millais 
with hisses, and were holding up his work, and 
that of his associates, to the bitterest execration. 
The post of President of the Royal Academy 
he held for only six months, for he succeeded 
Lord Leighton on February 2oth, 1896, and 
died on 1 3th of August in the same year. His 
election, however, rounded off appropriately that 
long association with the Academy to which he 
referred in his speech at the 1895 banquet, at 
which he presided in the absence of Lord 
Leighton. " I must tell you briefly my connec- 

r 



1 8 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

tion with this Academy. I entered the Antique 
School as a probationer, when I was eleven years 
of age; then became a student in the Life School; 
and I have risen from stage to stage until I 
reached the position I now hold of Royal 
Academician : so that, man and boy, I have been 
intimately connected with this Academy for 
more than half a century. I have received here 
a free education as an artist an advantage any 
lad may enjoy who can pass a qualifying examina- 
tion and I owe the Academy a debt of gratitude 
I never can repay. I can, however, make this 
return I can give it my love. I love everything 
belonging to it ; the casts I have drawn from as 
a boy, the books I have consulted in our Library, 
the very benches I have sat on." No other 
teaching institution had, indeed, had any part 
in his education ; no other art society had given 
him assistance at a moment when the world was 
against him; and in no other direction had such 
practical belief in the greatness of his future been 
manifested. Truly, he owed a debt of gratitude 
to the Academy, and he repaid it by being ever 
one of its most active supporters, and by doing 
infinite credit to its best traditions. 

There was something peculiarly pathetic in 
the fact that his life should have ended just when 



HIS LIFE 19 

he had reached the position that must have 
seemed to him, after his long and intimate con- 
nection with the Academy, the most honourable 
to which he could aspire. To be the head of 
the institution that he loved so well, and to be 
hailed as chief in the place that had seen every 
stage of his development, from childhood to ripe 
maturity, could not fail to be anything but ex- 
quisitely gratifying to a man of his nature. But 
almost at the moment of his election it appeared 
that there was little time left him in which to 
enjoy the honour that had crowned his many 
years of devotion to the great principles of art. 
The fatal disease that had gripped him a little 
while before was not to be shaken off, and was 
sapping rapidly and effectually even his superb 
vitality. He worked on, however, almost to the 
end, hopeful even in the midst of suffering, active 
in carrying out the duties of his office, and busy 
as ever with the canvases that crowded his 
studio. He was fully represented in the Academy 
Exhibition of 1896, by a group of portraits, and 
by a picture, A Forerunner, which showed no 
sign of failing strength or of any relaxation in 
his grasp of the essentials of his craft. 

Then, with painful suddenness, came the 
verdict of his doctors, that his case was hopeless. 



20 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

The throat trouble, that had been growing month 
by month more acute and distressing, was pro- 
nounced to be cancer and incurable. In June 
the disease had made such strides that the end 
seemed to be imminent, but an operation gave 
him some relief, and his life was prolonged till 
the middle of August, when at last death released 
him from his agony. He passed away at the 
house in Palace Gate, Kensington, which had 
been the scene of the many triumphs of his later 
years, dying as he had lived, full of courage and 
patience, fearing nothing, and meeting his fate 
with cheerful resignation. On August 2oth, he 
was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, beside his old 
friend Lord Leighton, whom only a few months 
before he had helped to lay to rest. 

His death not only left a gap in the ranks of 
art, but it also took away, while he was yet in 
the full enjoyment of his powers, a man whose 
sterling qualities had attracted a host of friends. 
His frankness and honesty, his geniality and 
kindliness, and, above all, his manly wholesome- 
ness, without taint of modern decadence or 
morbidity, endeared him to everyone with whom 
he came in contact. He was typically English, 
in the best sense, with all the physical and 
mental attributes that have enabled our race to 



HIS LIFE 21 

dominate the world, a lover of the country, a 
good shot, a keen fisherman, and a fearless 
horseman. The very look of him, with his 
stalwart, well set-up figure, and handsome, self- 
reliant face, conveyed the impression of perfect 
health of mind and body, and declared the in- 
exhaustible vigour of his nature. 



HIS ART 

WITH all his definiteness of opinion and 
sincere belief in the accuracy of his own 
judgment, Millais was too keenly alive to the 
varieties of nature, too earnest in his observation 
of the life about him, to fall into the mechanical 
habit of repeating himself. He was robust, 
modern and practical, a man whose instinct was 
active rather than contemplative ; and he might 
even be said to be wanting in imagination, if by 
imagination is understood the capacity to evolve 
things curious and unusual out of the inner 
consciousness. 

But if he lacked imagination in this sense, he 
more than made up for the deficiency by the 
exquisite acuteness of his insight into natural 
facts, and by the depth of his judgment about 
the essentials of art. He made no mistakes 
through ignorance or want of proper preparation; 
and he never failed because he grudged the pre- 
liminary thought needed to carry to success a 
great undertaking. Indeed, the one thing that 



HIS ART 23 

he always preached was application, constant 
industry devoted to the task of finding out how 
work should be done. Carelessness he con- 
demned ; but he had no love for that type of 
performance which shows the trouble that the 
producer has taken over it. Ke contended, 
justly, that it was the duty of the artist to so 
master the executive details of his profession 
that his work should impress the spectator by 
its ready certainty rather than its conscientious 
toil. 

The need to strive for the quality of freshness 
in technical expression was, however, very far 
from being the only thing he insisted upon. He 
had, as well, a strong belief in the importance of 
a definitely independent attitude with regard to 
choice of pictorial motive, and selection of suit- 
able material. But beyond this he advocated 
special precautions against any narrowing of the 
artist's practice by too close adherence to one 
kind of picture. He once put this conviction 
into words of considerable significance. " In- 
dividuality is not all that should be looked to ; 
a varied manner must be cultivated as well. I 
believe that however admirably he may paint in 
a certain method, or however perfectly he may 
render a certain class of subject, the artist should 



24 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

not be content to adhere to a speciality of manner 
or method. A fine style is good, but it is not 
everything it is not absolutely necessary." 

Certainly Sir John carried out these principles 
in his own production. He had many sides to 
his character as an artist, and used his powers 
of observation with splendid freedom. His 
popularity was gained not by the reiteration 
of any one set of ideas, but by showing himself 
equally capable in many forms of painting. In 
his figure pictures he was by turns dramatic, 
romantic, sternly realistic, and at times senti- 
mental in a robust way ; in his portraits he was 
incisive, direct, and accurate ; in his landscapes 
precise, exact, and searchingly correct in his 
rendering of what was before him ; and in his 
water-colours and drawings in black and white 
delightfully facile and ingenious. He had no 
speciality, and no set conviction that there was 
one particular thing he could do better than any- 
thing else ; so that he never restrained his love 
of variety or bound himself by limitations based 
simply upon expediency. 

In any classification of his works, the first 
place must necessarily be given to his figure 
paintings and portraits. Indeed, they make up 
the bulk of his achievement, and represent the 



HIS ART 25 

fullest growth of his capacity. The history of 
his life is principally written in them. The 
charm of his personality distinguishes them all 
a charm as evident in the simpler and more 
limited subjects as in those which made great 
demands upon his powers of invention and con- 
trivance. There was never any suggestion that 
he did not honestly feel the motive with which 
he was dealing, or that he was not perfectly 
convinced that what he had chosen was worthy 
of record. If he failed, it was because he had 
misapprehended the suitability of his material, 
not because he had been trying to do something 
outside the range of his belief. 

Curiously, perhaps, his honesty and direct- 
ness were at the same time the source of what 
was best in his pictures, and the cause of their 
chief weaknesses. Had he not been so frank 
and wholesome-minded he could never have 
arrived at that exquisite appreciation of the 
daintiness of childhood to which he gave ex- 
pression in a great many of his most successful 
canvases, and could never have gained, as he 
did, the hearts of all classes of art lovers. Only 
a worshipper of children, with the most absolute 
sympathy with their ways and habits, could have 
painted pictures as persuasive as Cherry Ripe, 



26 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

A Waif, Caller Herring The Princess Elizabeth, 
and that long series of pretty studies of which 
Perfect Bliss, Dropped from the Nest, Forbidden 
Fruit, and Little Mrs. Gamp may be quoted as 
types. Only a man with the happiest sense of 
delicate shades of character could have com- 
manded the extraordinary popularity that came 
to him as a result of his production of pictures 
such as these. 

Yet it was to these very qualities that was due 
his occasional want of success in dealing with 
stronger themes. His dramatic pictures de- 
scended at times into an artlessness that was 
only redeemed from feebleness by its obvious 
sincerity. They failed because he concerned 
himself so much with matters of fact that he 
missed the greater possibilities of the subjects 
he had selected, and because in his desire to be 
real and convincing he forgot that there was a 
need to appeal to the imagination of people who 
would not be satisfied with plain statements. 

On the other hand it is possible to select from 
among his subject pictures several that prove 
him to have had brilliant moments when he 
could reach the greater heights of pictorial in- 
vention. There are quite half a dozen of his 
canvases which by their wonderful vitality, their 



HIS ART 27 

deep significance, and force of expression make 
good a claim to the possession of the finest kind 
of mastery. The Vale of Rest, The North- West 
Passage, The Order of Release, The Ruling Pas- 
sion, The Boyhood of Raleigh, and perhaps Effie 
Deans show that he could grasp with all possible 
firmness and state with unflinching decision, 
motives that called for great mental exertion. 
Their qualities are those that come from a minute 
insight not only into details of character, but 
also into the principles which govern the dra- 
matic side of pictorial art. No false note spoils 
the harmony of these compositions, no touch of 
uncertainty or divided opinion ; they are con- 
fident and assured, and their meaning is not to 
be questioned. They express the thoughts of a 
man who, with all his straightforwardness and 
simplicity, could now and then look beneath 
the surface and work out problems far more 
profound than it was his every-day habit to 
investigate. 

His romance, especially, had this merit of 
being well thought out. It was never compli- 
cated by excess of details, and was strict in its 
adherence to the main facts of the story, without 
irrelevant matter introduced to complete pictur- 
esquely an imperfect conception. The Knight 



28 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

Errant is a very good example of his method of 
dealing with an incident evolved from his own 
fancy; and Victory \ O Lord! is equally charac- 
teristic as an instance of the power with which 
he could seize upon the salient points of a 
subject suggested to him by written history. 
Many of his finer paintings were illustrative 
records of the impressions made upon him by 
things he had read, and expressions of the 
instinct that brought him throughout his life 
such success as a draughtsman in black and 
white ; but they were only occasionally direct 
illustrations of particular passages from books. 
More often what he gave was his view of what 
might have happened, rather than a plain re- 
production in paint of what was already fixed in 
words. 

He preferred to base himself more upon the 
spirit than the letter of a story, to find a new 
reading for himself, and to treat it with a con- 
siderable degree of independence. In The 
Princes in the Tower he followed none of the 
accepted versions, and in Effie Deans he made 
a subject out of the slightest possible suggestion 
in the text of the romance; yet both pictures 
show that peculiar air of conviction which results 
from a perfect understanding of what is essential 



HIS ART 29 

for the proper application of dramatic material. 
In these, as in almost all his renderings of 
incident, appears his habit of attacking not the 
climax of the story, but rather one of its earlier 
stages, an intermediate moment when the action 
is still in progress and the final result is suggested 
rather than clearly foreshadowed. This habit 
was always strong upon him. It gave their 
particular interest to such early works as The 
Huguenot, The Black Brunswicker, The Pro- 
scribed Royalist^ and The Escape of a Heretic , 
just as much as it did to later pictures like The 
Girlhood of St. Theresa, or Speak ! Speak I ; 
and by introducing a touch of speculation into 
the record of his thoughts he enhanced the 
fascination which was never wanting in his 
sturdy inventions. 

Indeed, there was in every branch of his figure- 
painting some sufficient reason for his popularity, 
some distinct attractiveness of mental quality to 
add convincingly to the impression created by 
his superlative command over technicalities. He 
could be tender, dainty, and refined in his studies 
of children; serious and solemn in his symbolical 
compositions ; pathetic, vigorous, and passionate 
by turns in his subject-pictures ; and through all 
ran a vein of sentiment that was always whole- 



30 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

some, clean, and intelligible. He never affected 
to be influenced by feelings that were not 
honestly natural to him, nor did he pretend to 
represent anything that he did not believe in 
sincerely and without question. What he painted 
was invariably what he felt at the moment ; and, 
whether it was a masterpiece or a comparative 
failure it expressed simply the appeal that the 
subject had made to him ; and his response to 
this appeal was always unconventional and 
definite. 

He trusted in the same way to a personal 
impression of his sitter when he set himself to 
paint a portrait. What he wanted was to show 
that he understood the individuality of the man 
or woman before him, and that his understand- 
ing had helped him to make clear to others the 
special idiosyncrasies that separated that man or 
woman from the ordinary crowd. Portraiture to 
him was a matter of observation, of receptiveness 
to suggestion, and acceptance of what was visible, 
rather than an artistic process which enabled him 
to give free scope to his inventive instincts. 

Perhaps he was less analytical and discriminat- 
ing in his pictures of women. They seemed to 
appeal to him less than men did as subjects for 
psychological study. What he preferred to dwell 



HIS ART 31 

upon were the physical charms of femininity, 
beauty of face and form, elegance of carriage, 
and that rounded fulness of development that 
argues perfect healthiness of body and mind. 
The stateliness of the card-players in Hearts are 
Trumps^ the air of high breeding and conscious 
power which distinguishes the portrait of the 
Duchess of Westminster, and the more matronly 
splendour of Mrs. Bischoffsheim, mark the chief 
variations in his manner of painting womankind; 
occasionally only did he diverge into more detailed 
character, as in Miss Eveleen Tennant^ Mrs. 
Jopling, and Mrs. Perugini; but as a rule he was 
content to treat the freshness and brilliant vitality 
of his feminine sitters, and to leave untouched 
their possibilities of passion or strong emotion. 
His men were full of vigorous aspirations, re- 
strained for the moment, yet near the surface and 
ready at any time to break into activity ; but his 
women were serene and unmoved, prepared, 
perhaps, for conquest, but wrapped in a reserve 
that would not allow them to make the first 
advances. 

That his preference for repose in representa- 
tion did not lead the artist into a dry convention, 
or into any disregard of the essential points of 
difference between people, is very evident if a 



32 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

comparison is made of his chief portraits. 
Beneath their reserve appears a wonderful variety 
of manner, and a superb power of interpretation. 
They are studied, exact, and intensely real No 
perfunctory labour is seen in them, and their 
value is diminished by no slurring over of the 
little things which help to define the more 
intimate characteristics of the modern man. 

The unquestionable popularity that Millais 
gained by his excursions into landscape was 
equally due to the fact that he was a student of 
nature, not an imaginative interpreter of what 
she presented. He dealt with facts and left 
fancies almost entirely alone. In the series of 
canvases that began with Chill October, and 
ended with Halcyon Weather, there was infinite 
industry, marvellous accuracy, perfect veracity 
of record, but little effort to be anything but 
absolutely exact in his statement of what he 
saw. His amazing patience and his surprising 
quickness of vision, enabled him to grasp with 
easy confidence the plain truths of nature, and 
his command of brushwork ensured a rare 
perfection in his pictorial expression of the 
matter that he had selected for representation. 
Nothing was implied or left in sketchy incom- 
pleteness, because his patience had failed him 



HIS ART 33 

before he had realised the complicated fulness 
of his subject. He spared himself no toil to 
arrive at what seemed to him to be the perfec- 
tion of nature, and he was as minutely attentive, 
as surely certain of himself, as he ever was in 
his figure work. 

As a necessary consequence, however, of this 
manner of working, he never could be ranked 
among the inspired painters of the open air, 
nor could he ever be said to have dealt ex- 
haustively with the problems presented by nat- 
ural phenomena. He remained untouched by 
the subtleties of atmospheric effect, by the 
varieties of momentary illumination, or by the 
fleeting glories of aerial colour, which provide the 
student of nature's devices with the chief incen- 
tive to artistic effort. He was always too much 
Concerned with the things at his feet, with 
matter that he could dissect and investigate, to 
give much thought to the broad and comprehen- 
sive scheme of which these things formed part. 
Whatever he arrived at in the way of a record of 
a natural effect was reached not so much by 
thorough understanding of the effect as a whole, 
as by an amazingly acute interpretation of the 
influence exercised by it upon the details upon 
which his eyes were fixed. 

D 



34 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

An excellent instance of this is afforded in 
The Blind Girl, where he has given little enough 
attention to the grandeur of the passing storm- 
clouds, and has concentrated the whole of his 
energies upon the rendering, with supreme 
fidelity, of dripping weeds and a drenched hill- 
side lighted by the rays of the setting sun. As 
a record of microscopic insight, the picture is 
superlatively successful; it could hardly be 
more closely reasoned out ; but, as a representa- 
tion of Nature in one of her most impressive 
moods, it is ineffectual and unconvincing. So, 
too, his most popular landscape, Chill October , 
falls short of greatness, because it is too plainly 
studied bit by bit, and part by part, and built 
up precisely by the careful putting in place of 
material collected for the pictorial purpose. It 
holds together, not because it has one great 
dominating intention, but because its construc- 
tion is so ingenious, and its mechanism so 
workmanlike, that no single detail can be 
criticised as out of relation to the rest. It can 
hardly be called learned in design, nor can it be 
said to have any conspicuous dignity of style ; 
yet the knowledge of form, the intimate observa- 
tion of the growth of riverside vegetation, and 
the appreciation of autumnal colouring, which 



HIS ART 35 

were turned to account by the artist in his 
treatment of the subject, make the canvas 
prominent among the greatest nature studies of 
modern times. 

No consideration of his influence and no 
review of his performance would be complete 
without an appreciative reference to his services 
to black and white. As a painter he has a 
secure place among the chief modern masters 
of the world ; but what he did for pictorial art 
was paralleled, if not surpassed, by his assertion 
of the dignity and importance of illustration as 
a form of occupation for even the greatest of art 
workers. 

It has been well said that if Millais had never 
devoted himself to the painting of oil pictures, but 
had given his life entirely to the work of book 
illustration, his position would still have been in- 
disputable, and his magnificent ability would have 
been amply demonstrated. There is, indeed; a 
great deal of truth in this contention. Although 
the world would have been the poorer for the 
loss of his masterly essays in brushwork, and of 
his wonderful exercises in the arrangement of 
strong colour, it would have possessed extremely 
significant evidence of the reality of his artistic 
judgment, and of the adaptability of his inven- 



36 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

tive powers. In his black and white work he 
showed frequently a side of his capacity that 
appeared in his painting only on great occasions, 
a sense of dramatic exigencies, a feeling for 
illustrative meanings, far beyond what was sug- 
gested by the general run of his pictures. As 
an interpreter of the fancies of other men he 
was exceptionally intelligent, with a memorable 
grasp of the salient points of the story and a 
remarkable facility in summarising essentials. 
He was afraid of nothing in the way of a 
subject, and spared no labour to make his 
drawings completely expressive. 

His love of black and white was indeed a 
genuine one. Illustration was not to him, as it 
so often is with other men, a mere expedient, 
resorted to because an un appreciative public 
refused to recognise the merit and importance 
of his paintings, and abandoned gladly as soon 
as he found he could make a sufficient income 
without it. On the contrary, he welcomed the 
opportunities with which this branch of art 
practice provided him, and regarded them as of 
the highest value. For more than twenty years 
he was a prolific illustrator, constantly busy with 
drawings that were reproduced in all kinds of 
books and magazines ; and even in his later life 



HIS ART 37 

occasional examples appeared to prove that his 
hand had not lost its cunning and that his 
interest in this type of work was undiminished. 

How deeply he felt about this particular sub- 
ject is, perhaps, best proved by his constant 
advocacy, within and without the Academy, of 
the claims of illustrative draughtsmen to official 
recognition. Before the Royal Commission on 
the Academy he strenuously urged that workers 
in black and white should be declared eligible 
for election to membership of that institution as 
draughtsmen purely, instead of being required 
to disguise themselves as picture painters before 
they could hope for admission ; and his plead- 
ing then expressed a conviction which remained 
strong in him till his death. He spoke with 
real authority on a matter that, both by inclina- 
tion and association, he was fully qualified to 
discuss. His experience of illustrative drawing, 
and his acquaintance with the history of its de- 
velopment, were both peculiarly intimate ; and 
he knew exactly what were the possibilities of 
influence possessed by the craft. 

About his technical methods there is com- 
paratively little to be said. He was not a worker 
who concerned himself very deeply over devices 
of execution, or cared to codify his system of 



38 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

painting in accordance with scientific principles. 
He drew well, and handled his materials with 
the sureness and confidence that came from 
complete knowledge of what he wanted to do. 
His chief desire, as has been already stated, was 
to retain in pictures that had really cost him 
deep thought and prolonged labour an aspect of 
spontaneity and freshness ; to be direct in state- 
ment and simple in expression. He had a well- 
founded belief that the finest art was that in 
which the meaning of the artist was to be real- 
ised with the least amount of seeking and with 
as little inquiry as possible about his intentions. 
Consequently, he strove all his life to master the 
intricacies of his craft, so that no hesitation on 
his part might make his meaning vague or in- 
definite. 

Speed he always had. Even in the apparently 
laborious period of his Pre-Raphaelite perform- 
ance he could, and did, paint with amazing 
facility the head of Ferdinand in Ferdinand 
lured by Ariel, was, for instance, completed in 
five hours and as years went on his certainty 
became even more indisputable. Cherry Ripe 
was painted in a week, The Last Rose of Summer 
in not more than four days, and for many of his 
portraits half a dozen sittings sufficed to give 



HIS ART 39 

him all that was necessary for the achievement 
of a masterpiece. His quickness of apprehen- 
sion and accuracy of vision helped him to a 
prompt decision as to choice of material ; and 
when his direction was once fixed, his inex- 
haustible energy carried him easily through the 
work of production. Nature had well equipped 
him for his profession, and wisely he followed 
the lines she had laid down. 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 

THE works which have been reproduced as 
illustrations to this summary of the career 
of one of the greatest artists whom the British 
school has known have been selected with the 
intention of representing the more important 
stages in his progress. It is comparatively easy 
to divide his life into different periods, each one 
of which was marked by some achievements of 
more than ordinary significance. Thus the Christ 
in the House of His Parents (1849), and Ophelia 
(1852) belong to the time when he was a devout 
believer in the creed of the Pre-Raphaelite 
Brotherhood; Autumn Leaves (1856) and The 
Vale of Rest (1858) show the first beginnings 
of the change of conviction which led him 
a few years later to an almost complete aband- 
onment of his earlier principles ; A Souvenir of 
Velasquez (1868) marks the end of the transi- 
tion from his youthful methods to the vigorous 
freedom of his middle life ; The North- West 
Passage (1874) and A Yeoman of the Guard 
40 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 41 

(1876), the triumphant attainment of absolute 
mastery over all the details of his craft, and the 
Thomas Carlyk (1877), the commencement of 
that period of sober confidence in his perfected 
skill which continued till his death in 1896. 

There is hardly one of these pictures which 
does not by its superlative quality deserve a 
place among the great things that may be said 
to have made our art history. They show Sir 
John Millais not only as a splendid executant 
but also as a frank and sincere thinker on art 
questions, who did not hesitate to modify his 
opinions as his widening experience proved to 
him that a better way than the one which he 
was following at the moment might be found to 
lead him to the highest results. It is a fortunate 
circumstance that with one exception the whole 
of this group of noble works can be counted as 
public property. They have passed into galleries 
where they are always accessible, and they are 
within the reach of every student who wishes to 
profit by the great lessons they are able to teach. 

CHRIST IN THE HOUSE OF HIS PARENTS 

This is the earliest and in some respects the 
most ambitious of the Pre-Raphaelite pictures. 
In it all the resources of Pre-Raphaelitism are 



42 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

turned to good account, and the logic of the 
creed is asserted with unquestioning faith. A 
verse in Zechariah, "And one shall say unto 
him, ' What are these wounds in thine hands ? ' 
Then he shall answer, ' Those with which I was 
wounded in the house of my friends,'* " provided 
the motive, and the love of exact and searching 
observation which was from the first the govern- 
ing principle of the artist's practice, controlled 
every detail of the execution. 

As a religious painting, a representation of a 
Holy Family, this work was by no means approved 
by the mid-century critics. One of the writers 
of the period, who joined in the general outcry 
against the picture, declared, with what seems 
now to have been quite unnecessary emphasis, 
that it touched "the lowest depths of what is 
mean, odious, repulsive, and repelling." It 
certainly shows no respect for any of the tradi- 
tions which were then popularly supposed to 
call for the unquestioning support of every 
artist, for the spirit by which was inspired such 
a composition, for instance, as Sir Charles East- 
lake's Christ lamenting over Jerusalem^ a picture 
now in the Tate Gallery, which explains very 
well the sort of feebleness that was in fashion in 
the middle of the nineteenth century. 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 43 

Millais did not hesitate to put on one side all 
the namby-pamby prettiness and elegant affecta- 
tion which governed the production of his con- 
temporaries, and struck out for himself in a very 
different direction. He laid the scene of his 
story in the house of Joseph, and, to quote 
another critic, associated the characters of the 
sacred story "with the meanest details of a car- 
penter's shop, with no conceivable omission of 
misery, of dirt, and even of disease, all finished 
with the same loathsome minuteness." The 
child Christ stands before the carpenter's bench 
with the Virgin kneeling beside him preparing 
to bind up with a piece of linen a wound in his 
hand, at which Joseph leaning forward from the 
end of the bench is looking. St. Anne in the 
background is picking up a pair of pincers, and 
beside Joseph is John the Baptist coming towards 
the central group with a bowl of water in his 
hands. An assistant on the other side of the 
picture watches the incident gravely. 

The keynote of the whole composition is its 
earnest symbolism. Every one of the lovingly 
laboured details explains something of the story, 
the tools on the wall, the dove perched on the 
ladder, and the sheep, typifying the faithful, and 
the wattled fence, an emblem of the Church, 



44 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

which are seen through the doorway; while in 
the meadow beyond is placed a well as a symbol 
of Truth. In its imaginative qualities, the picture 
is not less masterly than in its technical accuracy, 
and excites as much wonder by the depth of 
thought it reveals as by its astonishing accom- 
plishment. It is the most original of all the 
artist's earlier works, marking definitely his 
emancipation from the influences of his student 
days, and his development in craftsmanship. 



OPHELIA 

The Ophelia is neither in scale nor in imagin- 
ative invention as impressive as the Christ in 
the House of His Parents^ but it is, without 
doubt, one of the pictures by which he will most 
surely be remembered. It is an admirable ex- 
ample of his searching study of natural details, 
close and elaborate in its realisation of every 
part of the subject, and curiously true in its 
rendering of the subtle tones of brilliant day- 
light. Only an observer endowed with extra- 
ordinary keenness of vision, and with absolutely 
inexhaustible patience could have interpreted so 
exactly all the complexities of such a scene. In 
no part of the canvas is it possible to detect any 




ffi 

PH 
O 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 45 

relaxation of his strenuous effort after complete- 
ness ; nothing is slurred over, and nothing which 
could add to the persuasiveness of the work is 
omitted. 

The points which are particularly to be noticed 
are the amazing accuracy of the drawing of every 
leaf and twig in the background, the truth with 
which the floating draperies and the river weeds 
lying beneath the surface of the water have been 
rendered, and the brilliant vivacity of the colour, 
which, strong and insistent as it is, entirely 
avoids garishness and rankness of quality. 
There is, too, a delightful tenderness of senti- 
ment which suits to perfection a subject full of 
sympathetic suggestion. Not a trace of affecta- 
tion is to be perceived ; the sincerity and good 
faith of the artist cannot for an instant be 
doubted, and his understanding of the dramatic 
meaning of the incident chosen is perfectly 
judicious. It would not be easy to find a 
picture which marks more truly the difference 
between the finish that comes from learned 
study, and the mere surface elaboration by 
which an uninspired artist seeks to hide his in- 
sufficiency of technical knowledge. The imi- 
tative painter is satisfied if he can deceive the 
eye by tricks of handling, cunningly managed, 



46 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

and cares little for the broad effect of his canvas 
as a whole; but Millais, who was a man of 
genius, could never have contented himself with 
the cheap popularity attainable by such devices. 
He took a far larger view of his artistic respon- 
sibility, and even in his most prolonged and 
assiduous labour he never forgot that the part 
which every touch had to play in the general 
pictorial scheme had to be considered. That 
he should never have lost the unity of effect of 
his Ophelia^ though he spent many weeks paint- 
ing the landscape setting of the figure, in a quiet 
corner on the Ewell River, near Kingston, may 
be regarded as a convincing proof of his rare 
fitness for dealing with some of the greater 
problems of open air painting. 

AUTUMN LEAVES 

As an example of his use of poetic and tender 
sentiment this picture is now rightly admired as 
the most fascinating of all the works which he 
produced during his life. It is neither a great 
composition nor an amazing illustration of 
minute patience in technical performance; but 
it has a spontaneous charm of manner that puts 
it among the few modern masterpieces. When 
it was first exhibited it was not properly under- 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 47 

stood by the general public, but expert observers 
even then appreciated its delicate symbolism, 
and saw in it qualities of the noblest kind. Mr. 
Ruskin praised it with generous enthusiasm, 
and not only ranked it as one of the monu- 
mental canvases of the world, but declared that 
not even to Titian could be assigned a place 
higher than that which Millais had reached by 
this triumphant achievement. 

Judged as a piece of painting it is surprisingly 
free from all those little artifices which a less 
thoughtful artist would have used to increase 
the strength of his appeal to the attention of the 
public. It is studiously quiet in manner and 
formal in composition, an arrangement of severe 
lines and simple masses, which might easily have 
been made blankly inexpressive if they had been 
managed with less subtle perception of the 
deeper possibilities of the subject. But this 
very reserve gives the picture much of its 
strangely sympathetic beauty, and increases its 
hold upon the feelings of all people who are not 
satisfied with the superficialities of pictorial art. 
The attitudes of the figures, the expressions of 
the faces, the bareness of the landscape against 
which the group of children is set, and the 
solemn stillness of the autumn twilight which 



48 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

pervades the whole composition are all of value 
in the carrying out of the artist's intention. The 
lingering sadness of autumn is throughout the 
idea which was in his mind, and the way in 
which this is symbolised in every touch and 
every detail is well-nigh perfect. 

The picture is also remarkable because it is 
practically the first in which Millais showed that 
masterly understanding of the character and 
ways of children, which was so often and so 
delightfully displayed in his later production. 
The young girls who are grouped round the fire 
of faded leaves are painted with inimitable grace 
and tenderness. Their unconscious naturalness 
is wholly charming, their unstudied ease of 
gesture is extraordinarily well rendered; and 
there is in the purity of the delicate little faces 
a suggestion of the innocence of childhood 
which is exquisitely fresh and attractive. Yet 
no impossible idealisation spoils the truth of the 
painting. They are frankly children who play 
their parts in it, not little angels with none of 
the instincts of human beings. 

THE VALE OF REST 

Although the public, after having become 
accustomed to the artist's uncompromising Pre- 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 49 

Raphaelitism, must have been warned by the 
symbolism of Autumn Leaves of the coming 
change in his methods, the appearance of his 
Vale of Rest at the Academy in 1859 caused 
a very definite sensation. People then found 
themselves called upon to accept him as a 
didactic and imaginative moralist. He had, 
indeed, entered upon his transition, and had 
moved far from the literalism of Christ in the House 
of His Parents^ and the obvious actuality of 
Ophelia^ towards the closely impending de- 
claration of those individual preferences which 
were to guide him in the work of the latter half 
of his life. The Vale of Rest is said to have 
been of all his paintings the one that Millais 
estimated most highly; and it is with justice 
reckoned among the most brilliant achievements 
which mark great moments in his career. 

It is certainly the picture which combines 
most surely his power of thought, and his 
capacity for stating forcibly and dramatically the 
things which he imagined. There is in it a 
manly sincerity which cannot be questioned, 
and there is besides a kind of solemn beauty 
that comes from his instinctive avoidance of 
sensationalism and from his naturally correct 
preference for simplicity of treatment. This 

E 



So SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

simplicity and sincerity of manner can always 
be found in his best paintings, and when applied, 
as in The Vale of Rest, to the avowal of a strong 
conviction must be regarded as accountable for 
the extraordinary persuasiveness of his art. An 
artist of less straightforward habit of mind would 
have sought to complicate his statement by 
adding little things with the idea of stimulating 
the curiosity of the observer; but Millais was 
content, when he had found a subject inherently 
dignified and impressive, to leave it to tell its 
own story and not to embroider it with trivial 
accessories. To this reticence is due the monu- 
mental character of The Vale of Rest ; there is 
nothing in it to distract attention, and nothing 
which could jar on the imagination, and so 
diminish the value of the lesson which it is in- 
tended to teach. 

Perhaps the greatest triumph of all is the way 
in which the picture, despite the sadness, the 
grimness almost, of the subject, escapes mor- 
bidity. It would have been so easy to introduce 
into it a touch of fantastic mysticism, or to spoil 
its mystery by asserting too plainly the moral of 
the story, but the artist has been proof against 
every temptation, and has gone through with the 
work in the way that his wholesome instincts 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 51 

told him would be most correct. The dominant 
note is one of peace, and the restfulness of the 
secluded convent graveyard in which the last act 
of the drama of life is played typifies truly the 
long sleep which comes at last to end the troubles 
and strivings of humanity. None of the turmoil 
of the world intrudes into this vale of rest, and 
even nature herself is in sympathy with its gentle 
calm. 

SOUVENIR OF VELASQUEZ 

If the Vale of Rest marks significantly the 
transition through which Millais passed before 
he finally found the way that he followed for the 
last thirty years of his life, the Souvenir of 
Velasquez shows decisively what was the nature 
of the change that came over his art. Between 
1859 and 1867 he seemed to have settled down 
into a habit of careful and rather laborious 
manipulation and to have become a confirmed 
lover of high finish and a scrupulous exponent 
of what were almost unnecessary realities. But 
suddenly, in 1868, he threw all this minute pre- 
cision aside and avowed himself to be a robust 
impressionist, glorying in his power to give by a 
few large and summary touches a vivid suggestion 
of many facts, and eager to render great effects 



52 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

rather than microscopically analysed and elabor- 
ately assorted details. There was no mistaking 
this change and no explaining it away. It meant 
that he had abandoned once and for ever all 
that had remained to him of the restrictions of 
the Pre-Raphaelite method and had begun to 
apply its principles in such a way that he could 
aim henceforth at the highest flights of executive 
expression. 

Among the many pictures which he produced 
at this period to prove how completely the wish 
to rival the great executants of other schools had 
possessed him, the Souvenir of Velasquez stands 
out as the cleverest in craftsmanship, and the 
most delightful in feeling. It is not merely an 
amazingly direct piece of brushwork in which 
every touch shows the hand of a master of 
technical contrivance, but as a reflection of the 
spirit of childhood it deserves, as well, to be 
spoken of as a veritable inspiration. The beauty 
of the face is very remarkable, and there is 
a pretty stateliness in the pose of the young 
sitter which accords perfectly with the old-world 
costume in which she is represented. As the 
title implies, the general arrangement and treat- 
ment of the picture were suggested by the 
practice of the great Spanish master, but this 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 53 

Souvenir is a great deal more than a copy of the 
methods of another artist ; it has in full measure 
the personal qualities by which almost everything 
that Millais touched was distinguished. 

That this performance was not a happy 
accident, one of those chance successes which 
sometimes come to an artist as a result of a 
fortunate combination of circumstances, was 
put beyond doubt by the character of his con- 
tributions to the Academy exhibitions during the 
next half dozen years. He fully maintained the 
high level of executive performance at which he 
had arrived, and continued steadily to widen the 
scope of his activity. There seemed to be no 
problem of handling which he was unprepared 
to attack and no difficulty that he feared as 
insurmountable. 



THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE 

In this work, painted in 1874, he displayed 
his strength in a large and ambitious composi- 
tion. As a subject picture it may fairly be 
reckoned as the most complete assertion of 
his mature conviction that he ever put before 
the public. Its motive was one calculated to 
appeal vividly to his militant instincts, and was 



54 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

suited in every way to his robust and energetic 
personality. The idea of indomitable persever- 
ance in the face of apparently overwhelming 
dangers, of tenacious effort to triumphantly ac- 
complish a great intention, was quite in accord- 
ance with his natural sympathies; and the 
picture has therefore an inner significance to 
which almost as much interest attaches as to its 
outward aspect of unhesitating certainty. It is, 
perhaps, a little unequal in execution, but parts 
of it are magnificent, and especially the head of 
the old seaman, who sits at the table and listens 
to the story of Arctic exploration that is being 
read to him by the girl seated at his feet The 
sitter for this splendid study of rugged age was 
Mr. Trelawny, the friend of Shelley and Byron. 
According to his usual custom Millais did 
little more than suggest in the picture the story 
implied by the title. The North- West Passage 
is not an illustrative painting of adventures in 
the Arctic region, but a piece of domestic genre 
on a large scale intended rather to stimulate the 
imagination than to record something actually 
accomplished. But to every thinking man it is 
wanting in nothing that gives interest to a work 
of art. It teaches an admirable lesson and 
points a moral well worth attention ; and in its 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 55 

combination of strenuousness and simple direct- 
ness, it reflects exactly the nature of one of the 
frankest and least self-conscious of men. The 
canvas is a tribute to the many great personalities 
whose lives have been devoted to the making of 
our national history, and, rightly understood, it 
is an eloquent appeal to us all to follow worthily 
in their footsteps. 



A YEOMAN OF THE GUARD 

Another masterpiece exhibited three years 
later has now found a permanent resting-place in 
the National Gallery. This riotous and gorgeous 
exercise in strong colour could only have 
been accomplished by an artist whose splendid 
audacity was equalled by his knowledge of his 
craft. The scarlet uniform, with its lavish em- 
broidery of black and gold and picturesque 
fashion, was something that exactly suited his 
fancy ; and he revelled in his struggle with the 
many problems of technique which such a sub- 
ject presented for solution. Yet there is little 
sign in the picture that he found it more than 
usually exacting ; and there is no evidence that 
he devoted to it an exceptional amount of 
labour. It is particularly memorable for its 



56 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

consistent and thorough treatment, for the sound 
judgment with which every variation of the colour 
and every component part of the design have 
been managed; and it seems to have been 
carried through without hesitation or change of 
intention. It is an unfaltering record of a clearly 
defined impression, and is not less interesting 
on account of the sensitive and characteristic 
rendering of the worn, old face of the model 
than as a piece of still life painting of quite 
extraordinary force. The qualities that make it 
great are those which distinguish the produc- 
tions of none but the unquestionable masters of 
pictorial art. 

THOMAS CARLYLE 

The Portrait of Thomas Carlyle has qualities 
scarcely less commanding, though it did not 
offer such opportunities for the display of mas- 
terly contrivance as were afforded by the Yeoman 
of the Guard. To deal with masses of strong 
colour, or to attempt audacities of brushwork, 
would not have been correct in a simple pre- 
sentation of a modern man. But even without 
any spectacular additions this picture is a re- 
markable one, because it reveals so plainly the 
discernment of character which had much to do 




[National Portrait Gallery. 
THOMAS CARLYLE. 



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS 57 

with the success that Millais gained in por- 
traiture. He cannot be said to have spared 
Carlyle in his analysis, nor to have tried to 
soften off the angularities of disposition which 
made the grim old sage more feared than loved 
by the people with whom he came in contact. 
The face is frankly that of a man who has been 
soured by the warfare of life; it is hard, dog- 
matic, fierce perhaps, and certainly intolerant, 
but it is keenly intellectual and shrewdly reflec- 
tive. There is courage and firmness of convic- 
tion in every line, and the instinct of the tena- 
cious fighter is declared in all the rugged and 
rough-hewn features. The unflinching gaze of 
the angry eyes, deep-set under the lowering 
brows, is wonderfully suggested, and the cynical, 
contemptuous mouth is magnificently drawn with- 
out any trace of caricature. That such a man 
should have summed up humanity as " mostly 
fools " would seem natural enough to every one 
who studies this portrait ; the Carlyle that Mil- 
lais has put on record for us does not look like 
a lover of his species, nor like a man who would 
find much pleasure in the society of his fellows. 
Perhaps the painter has been too severe to 
such a breezy enthusiast Carlyle must have been 
more than a little repellent but he has indis- 



58 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

putably been perfectly consistent in his state- 
ment of what he considered to be the right 
reading of the complex character of his famous 
sitter. 



THE CHIEF WORKS OF MILLAIS 
IN PUBLIC GALLERIES, ETC. 

NATIONAL GALLERY. 

The Yeoman of the Guard. 1876. 4 ft. 7 in. 

by 3 ft. Sin. (1494.) 
Portrait of the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone. 

1879. 4 ft. i in. by 3 ft. (1666.) 

TATE GALLERY. 

Ophelia. 1852. 2 ft. 6 in. by 3 ft. 8 in. (1506.) 

Tate Gift. 
The Vale of Rest. 1858. 3 ft. 4 in. by 5 ft. 

7 in. (1507.) Tate Gift. 
The Knight Errant. 1870. 6 ft. by 4 ft. 5 in. 

(1508.) Tate Gift. 
The North-West Passage. 1874. 5ft. gin. 

by 7 ft. 4 in. (1509.) Tate Gift. 
Mercy St. Bartholomew's Day 1572. 1886. 

6 ft. i in. by 4 ft. 4 in. (1510.) Tate Gift. 
Saint Stephen. 1895. 5 ft. by 3 ft. 9 in. 

(1563.) Tate Gift. 
59 



60 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

A Disciple. 1895. 4 ft. i in. by 2 ft. n in. 
(1564.) TateGift. 

Speak ! Speak ! 1895. 5 ft - 6 in - by 6 ft. 
ii in. (1584.) Chantrey Bequest. 

The Order of Release 1746. 1853. 3 ft. 
4 in. by 2 ft. 5 in. (1657.) Tate Gift. 

The Boyhood of Raleigh. (1691.) 4 ft. by 
4 ft. 8 in. Gift of Lady Tate. (1870.) 

A Maid offering a Basket of Fruit to a 
Cavalier. 6 in. by 4! in. (1807.) Be- 
queathed by Mr. Henry Vaughan. 

Charles I. and his Son in the Studio of Van 
Dyck. 6 in. by 4! in. (1808.) Be- 
queathed by Mr. Henry Vaughan. 

Equestrian Portrait. 1882. 10 ft. 5 in. by 
7 ft. 7 in. (1503.) Anonymous donor. 

N.B. Sir Edwin Landseer painted the gray 
palfrey with the gorgeous accoutrements, 
intending it for an equestrian portrait of 
Queen Victoria, but this was never carried 
out, and ultimately the picture was sent to 
Millais, who painted his daughter, now 
Mrs. James, in this old riding costume, 
together with the page, the dog, and the 
background, and called the picture "Nell 
Gwynne." It is also sometimes known as 
Diana Vernon. 



CHIEF WORKS OF MILLAIS 61 

It is initialled both by Landseer and 
Millais, and the date is that of its completion 
by Millais. 

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY. 

The Earl of Beaconsfield. A copy by Boyle 
from Millais' portrait. 

Thomas Carlyle. 1877. An unfinished por- 
trait. 3 ft. 9 in. by 2 ft. 10 in. 

William Wilkie Collins, the novelist. 1 1 in. 
by 7 in. 

John Leech, caricaturist. In water-colours. 
1 1 in. by 9 in. 

BIRMINGHAM ART GALLERY. 

The Widow's Mite. 1869. 3 ft. 10 in. by 
2ft. 7 in. (171.) 

The Blind Girl. 1856. Pre-Raphaelite work. 
2 ft. 8 in. by i ft. 9 in. (172.) Presented 
by the Rt. Hon. William Kenrick. 

BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY, QUEEN 

VICTORIA ST., LONDON. 
Portrait of the Earl of Shaftesbury. 1877. 

CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD. 

Portrait of the Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone. 
1885. 



62 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM, CAMBRIDGE. 

The Bridesmaid. ("All Hallows' E'en.") 
1851. 



THE GARRICK CLUB, LONDON. 
Portrait of Sir Henry Irving. 1884. 

INSTITUTE OF CIVIL ENGINEERS, LONDON. 
Portrait of Sir John Fowler, Bart., C.E. 
1868. 

LEEDS ART GALLERY 
Childhood. ^ 



Youth. 

Manhood. 

Age. 

Music. 

Art. 



A series of panels for lunettes 
formerly in the Judges' Lodg- 
ings in Leeds. Painted in 
1847. 



LIVERPOOL ART GALLERY. 

Lorenzo and Isabella. 1849. Pre-Raphaelite 

work. 4 ft. 9 in. by 3 ft. 4 in. Purchased 

in 1884. (337.) 
The Martyr of the Solway, in 1680. 1870. 

i ft. 10 in. by 2 ft. 4 in. Presented by Mr. 

George Holt in 1895. (5 2 5-) 



CHIEF WORKS OF MILLAIS 63 

MANCHESTER ART GALLERY. 

Autumn Leaves. 1856. Pre-Raphaelite work. 
3 ft. 5 in. by 2 ft. 5 in. (144.) Bought from 
the Leathart Collection. 

A Flood. 1870. 3 ft. 2 in. by 4 ft. 8 in. 
(145.) From the Matthews Collection. 

"Victory, O Lord!" 1871. 6ft. 4 in. by 
4ft. 6 in. (171.) Bought from the Exe- 
cutors of Mrs. Reiss, 1894. 

THE CORPORATION OF MANCHESTER. 
Portrait of Bishop Fraser. 1880. 
Portrait of Queen Alexandra when Princess 
of Wales. 1886. 

NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA. 

Portrait of the Marquis of Lome, now Duke 
of Argyll. 1884. 

NEW SOUTH WALES GALLERY, AUSTRALIA. 
The Captive. 1882. 

THE CORPORATION OF OLDHAM. 

Portrait of T. O. Barlow, R.A. 1886. 

OXFORD UNIVERSITY GALLERY. 
Portrait of Thomas Combe. 1850. 
Return of the Dove to the Ark. 1851. 



64 SIR JOHN MILLAIS 

THE ROYAL ACADEMY, BURLINGTON HOUSE 

DIPLOMA GALLERY. 
A Souvenir of Velasquez. 1868. 

ROYAL HOLLOWAY COLLEGE, EGHAM. 
The Princes in the Tower. 1878. 
The Princess Elizabeth. 1879. 

SHAKESPEARE MUSEUM, STRATFORD ON- AVON. 
Portrait of Lord Ronald Gower. 1876. 

ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S HOSPITAL, LONDON. 
Portrait of Sir James Paget. 1872. 
Portrait of Luther Holden, P.R.C.S. 1880. 

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW. 

Portrait of the Rev. John Caird, D.D. 1881. 

THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON. 
Portrait of George Grote. 1871. 



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