Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Millais, John Everett
MILLAIS, Sir JOHN EVERETT (1829–1896), painter of history, genre, landscape, and portraits, and president of the Royal Academy, born at Southampton on 8 June 1829, was the youngest son of John William Millais, who belonged to an old Norman family settled in Jersey for many generations, and Emily Mary, daughter of John Evamy, and the widow of Enoch Hodgkinson, by whom she had two sons. The father (who died in 1870) was noted in the island of Jersey for his good looks and charming manners. He was also a good musician and a fair artist, and held a commission in the Jersey militia. He arrested Oxford who shot at the queen in 1840. The Millaises lived at Le Quaihouse, just outside St. Hellers, before they removed to Southampton, where Sir John and his elder brother William Henry (also an artist, and the author of 'The Game Birds of England') were born. The family returned to Jersey soon after Millais's birth, and there he developed a taste for natural history and sketching. A frame containing drawings done when only seven years old was exhibited at the Royal Academy in the winter of 1898. He drew a portrait of his maternal grandfather, John Evamy, fishing, when he was eight years old, and another of his father when he was eleven. He was sent to school, but showed no inclination for study, and was expelled for biting his master's hand. Among the friends of the Millaises at Jersey were the family of the Lemprieres,one of whom (afterwards General Lempriere), the grandson of Philip Raoul Lempriere, Seigneur of Roselle Manor, was the model for the Huguenot in Millais's famous picture of that name. In 1835 the family removed to Dinan in Brittany, where the child delighted the French military officers by his sketches. One of the colonel smoking a cigar, and another of the 'tambour major' are specially mentioned in his biography by his son. In 1837 the family once more returned to Jersey, where John received his first instruction in art from a Mr. Bessel, the best drawing-master in the island, who soon confessed that he could not teach his pupil anything more, and in 1838 he came to London with an introduction to Sir Martin Archer Shee [q, v.], the president of the Royal Academy. On the way he sketched Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) Paxton [q. v.] asleep in the coach. Sir Martin told his parents that it was their plain duty to fit their son for the vocation for which nature had evidently intended him, and in the winter of 1838-9 he was sent to the well-known school of Henry Sass [q. v.] in Bloomsbury. In the same year he obtained a silver medal from the Society of Arts, and in 1840 became a student at the Royal Academy. Here he carried off every prize. His first picture in oils was 'Cupid crowned with Flowers,' painted in 1841. In 1843 he gained the first silver medal for drawing from the antique, and when seventeen the gold medal for an oil painting, 'The Young Men of Benjamin seizing their Brides.'
Millais still retained his disinclination for ordinary studies, and received all his education (except in art) from his mother, who read to him continually. He wore his boyish costume of gouffred tunic and wide falling collar till long past the usual age, and for this reason was called 'the child' by his fellow-students at the academy—a name which stuck to him long afterwards. He was tall and slim, high-spirited and independent, though very delicate. He was fond of cricket and of fishing, and made many friends. As early as 1840 he was asked to breakfast by Samuel Rogers, and met Wordsworth, and in 1846 he stayed with his half-brother, Henry Hodgkinson, at Oxford, and was introduced to Wyatt, the dealer in art, at whose house he frequently stayed as a guest during the next three years. On a window in the room he occupied he painted in oils 'The Queen of Beauty' and 'The Victorious Knight.' Wyatt bought his picture of 'Cymon and Iphigenia' (now belonging to Mr. Standen), painted in 1847 for the Royal Academy, but not exhibited. To 1849 belongs a portrait by Millais (exhibited in 1850) of Wyatt and his grandchild. Other acquaintances made at Oxford were Mr. and Mrs. Combe of the Clarendon Press, with whom he became intimate, and Mr. Drury of Shotover Park. He earned money also, and from the age of sixteen defrayed the greater part of the household expenses in Gower Street, where he lived with his family. In 1845 he was engaged to paint small pictures and backgrounds for a dealer named Ralph Thomas for 100l. a year. He recorded his delight at receiving his first cheque (still preserved) by endorsing it with a drawing of himself. They fell out, and Millais threw his palette at Thomas, and so ended the connection for a while, but it was afterwards renewed (though not for long) at an increased salary of 150l. a year.
In 1846 Millais exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time. The subject of his picture was 'Pizarro seizing the Inca of Peru.' This was followed in 1847 by 'Elgiva seized by the Soldiers of Odo.' John (known as Lester) Wallack, the actor [see under Wallack, James William, ad fin.], who married Millais's sister, sat for Pizarro. In 1847 also he entered unsuccessfully into the competition at Westminster Hall for the decoration of the houses of parliament, sending an oil picture of 'The Widow's Mite' (ten feet seven inches by fourteen feet three inches), since cut up. He did not exhibit at the academy in 1848.
Down to this time his career had differed from those of other academy students only by its distinguished success, and his pictures had shown little if any divergence from the ordinary ideals and methods taught in the schools; but about the beginning of 1848 he and Mr. Holman Hunt, deeply conscious of the lifeless condition into which British art had fallen, determined to adopt a style of absolute independence as to art dogma and convention, which they called 'Pre-Raphaelitism.' The next to join the movement was Dante Gabriel Rossetti [q.v.], who at this time was struggling with the technical difficulties of painting under the instruction of Holman Hunt, but was unknown to Millais. The three met together at the Millaises' house in Gower Street, where Millais showed them engravings from the frescoes in the Campo Santo at Pisa, and all agreed to 'follow' them. The result was the formation of the celebrated 'Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,' consisting of seven members. There has been much dispute as to what were the precise principles of the brotherhood ; but, according to Millais, 'the Pre-Raphaelites had but one idea, to present on canvas what they saw in nature,' and to this idea he adhered from first to last. Another disputed point is the influence of Rossetti on Millais's earlier work. This was entirely denied by Millais himself; but it was probably greater than he knew, for Rossetti's picture of 'The Girlhood of Mary Virgin ' was clearly the fore-runner of Millais's 'Christ in the House of his Parents,' and there was a spirit of poetical romance in Millais's work while their closest intercourse lasted (1848-52) which slowly faded away afterwards. The intense intellectual and spiritual influence of Rossetti ore the brotherhood generally cannot be denied. He was the ruling spirit of their short-lived organ, 'The Germ' (2 parts, 1850), for which Millais made one or two sketches and an etching and wrote a story, though none of them appeared. (A copy of the etching will be found in 'British Contemporary Artists.') On the other hand Millais was very independent and impatient of control, and would not read the first volume of 'Modern Painters' (1841), in which principles like those practically followed by the Pre-Raphaelites were first recommended to young artists. It is also to be remembered that Rossetti was at this time a mere tyro in painting, whereas Millais was a trained artist, and that of love of nature and skill in expressing it Millais could learn nothing from Rossetti.
At all events it is quite certain that Mr. Holman Hunt and Millais were most intimately associated in all their views and in their practice. They had worked together in complete sympathy from the days of their studentship, and they together started the new movement. The depth of the gulf between it and the old is clearly seen if we compare the 'Pizarro' of 1846 with the 'Isabella' of 1849 a banquet scene from Keats's poem of 'Isabella and the Pot of Basil' founded on a story by Boccaccio. In this nearly all the characters were painted from his relatives and friends. Among them were three at least of the brotherhood, the two Rossettis, Dante and William, and Mr. F. G. Stephens, and it contains all the characteristics of 'Pre-Raphaelite' work most minute imitation of nature down to the smallest detail, all persons and objects studied directly from the originals, and disregard of composition, generalisation, and all convention. The tale was told with dramatic power, and the expression of the heads, with the exception of the lovesick Lorenzo, was excellent. Millais never again painted a composition of so many figures, or of greater patience and success in execution. The picture was bought by Mr. Windus, was for a time in the possession of Thomas Woolner [q.v.], the sculptor (and one of the brethren), and is now in the gallery of the corporation of Liverpool. It was exhibited in 1849.
Millais's next important picture was a supposed scene in Christ's childhood, treated as an incident in the ordinary life of a carpenter's family. It is usually known as 'The Carpenter's Shop,' or 'Christ in the House of his Parents;' but in the catalogue of the Royal Academy it had, in place of a title, a quotation from Zechariah xiii. 6. The boy has wounded the palm of his hand with a nail. His mother kneels by him and kisses him. St. Joseph, St. Anne, and St. John, undistinguishable from ordinary human beings, play different parts in the little drama of sympathy, just as a carpenter's family might do any day in any country. They are all English in type. Such a treatment of a scene in the life of the Holy Family aroused great hostility. The 'Times' stigmatised it as 'revolting,' and its minute finish of detail as 'loathsome.' Violent attacks came from nearly all quarters, including 'Blackwood,' and even from Charles Dickens in 'Household Words,' who afterwards owned his mistake. Another picture of this year, 1850, 'Ferdinand lured by Ariel,' met with scarcely better reception from the critics, and was refused by the dealer for whom it was painted. Nevertheless, 'The Carpenter's Shop' was bought for 15(W. by a dealer named Farrer, and 'Ferdinand' by Mr. Ellison of Sudbrooke Holme, Lincolnshire, for the same sum. About this time Millais began to feel that the excessively minute handling which was one of the characteristics of the Pre-Raphaelites was a mistake (see William Bell Scott's Autobiographical Notes, i. 278), but little difference in this respect is to be noted in his work of the next few years. The most notable of these were : 'The Return of the Dove to the Ark,' and 'The Woodman's Daughter,' from a poem by Patmore, and ' Mariana of the Moated Grange ' (all exhibited in 1851); 'The Huguenot' and 'Ophelia' (1852) ; The Proscribed Royalist' and ' The Order of Release' (1853). 'The Return of the Dove,' though the girls who are receiving the bird were very plain, was exquisitely painted, and Ruskin wished to buy it ; but it was purchased by Mr. Combe for 150 guineas, who bequeathed it to the university of Oxford. The background of 'The Woodman's Daughter' was a wood near Oxford, and the strawberries which the squire's boy is offering to the labourer's daughter were purchased in Covent Garden—four for 5s. 6d. 'Mariana' was purchased by Mr. Windus, and now belongs to Mr. H. F. Makins. 'The Huguenot,' the figures of which were painted from Mr. Arthur (afterwards General) Lempriere and Miss Ryan, was bought by a dealer named White for 300l. 'Ophelia' was a portrait of Miss Siddall (Mrs. D. G. Rossetti), and the scene was painted by the side of the Ewell at Kingston. For 'The Proscribed Royalist' Mr. Arthur Hughes, the well-known painter, sat, Miss Ryan again appearing in the female figure. The scene was a little wood near Hayes in Kent. In 'The Order of Release' the female figure was painted from Mrs. Ruskin, who was afterwards to become his wife. During these years Millais was wont to spend much time in the country to paint his backgrounds, lodging at farmhouses and cottages, in company with his brother, Mr. Holman Hunt, and Charles Allston Collins. Having settled upon the piece of landscape he meant to introduce, he would paint it day by day with exact fidelity and almost microscopic minuteness. Such backgrounds, not only in his pictures, but those of Holman Hunt and their followers, form a very distinct feature of the strict 'Pre-Raphaelite' period. For literal truth to nature's own colours and rendering of intricate detail, those by Millais stand almost alone, especially the river scene in 'Ophelia.'
All this time Millais was fighting hard for his new principles of art, and suffered much from the antagonism of critics, dealers, and others, including many artists of the older school ; but he managed to sell his pictures in spite of all, and gradually achieved popularity also. With the exhibition of 'The Huguenot' the fight may be said to have been won, as far at least as the public were concerned. Its sentiment, its refinement of expression, and thorough execution appealed to nearly all who saw it. But Millais and the Pre-Raphaelite cause had many supporters and sympathisers, the most important of whom was John Ruskin [q.v.Suppl.], who expressed his enthusiasm in letters to the 'Times' and in his pamphlet called 'Pre-Raphaelitism' (1851). Millais first met Ruskin in this year, and two years afterwards he was joined by Ruskin and his wife. at Wellington, the Trevelyans' house in Northumberland, and went to Scotland with them. He made several architectural designs for Ruskin, and in 1854 painted a portrait of him standing by the river Finlass, which was bought by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland [q. v. Suppl.] In the autumn of 1853 he took to hunting with John Leech [q. v.], and in November of the same year he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. By this time the brotherhood, whose meetings had always been few and far between, had died a natural death, and Millais had soon to lose the companionship of Mr. Holman Hunt, who went to Syria in February 1854. In this year Millais did not exhibit at the Royal Academy, but in 1855 he sent three pictures, including 'The Rescue,' a scene from a fire in a modern town house, with a frantic mother seizing her two children from the arms of a fireman. This was painted in honour of brave firemen, and was a new departure, for the scene was completely modern, and the conception was entirely his own. The mother was painted from Mrs. Nassau Senior, the sister of Tom Hughes [q. v. Suppl.] author of 'Tom Brown's School Days.' Ruskin, in his notes on the principal pictures in the academy, declared it to be 'the only great picture exhibited,' adding that it was 'very great,' and that ' the immortal element is in it to the full.' In the great Paris Exhibition of 1855 Millais was represented by 'The Order of Release,' 'Ophelia,' and ' The Return of the Dove.' This was the year of Leighton's 'Cimabue,' and the two painters met for the first time. In July of this year (1855) Millais married Euphemia Chalmers, the eldest daughter of George Gray of Bowerswell, Perth, who had obtained a decree of the 'nullity' of her marriage with John Ruskin. They went to live at Annat Lodge, near Bowerswell. In the garden of this residence was painted the celebrated picture of 'Autumn Leaves,' which was exhibited in 1856 with 'Peace Concluded, 1856,' The Blind Girl,' 'L'Enfant du Regiment,' and a 'Portrait of a Gentleman.' 'Autumn Leaves' represents four girls heaping up dead leaves in a warm twilight or afterglow ; 'Peace Concluded,' a wounded officer and his wife, with their children playing with animals out of a Noah's ark a cock, a bear, a lion, and a turkey, symbolical of the nations engaged in the late war in the Crimea. In his 'Notes' Ruskin strongly praised 'Autumn Leaves' and 'Peace Concluded;' indeed, his praise of the latter was extravagant. Of 'Autumn Leaves' he said it 'is by much the most poetical work the painter has yet conceived, and also, as far as I know, the first instance existing of a perfectly painted twilight,' and of both he prophesied that they would 'rank in future among the world's best masterpieces.' 'The Blind Girl' contained two figures the blind girl and her companion, a younger girl, resting on a bank beside a common. The blind girl, with red hair and a concertina, is not beautiful, but the group is pathetic from its very truth and simplicity. The background one of the best the artist ever painted represents the common and village of Icklesham, near Winchelsea. 'L'Enfant du Regiment,' now called ' The Random Shot,' is supposed to be an incident in the French Revolution, and represents a wounded child lying on a soldier's cloak in a church. The tomb on which the cloak is spread was painted from one in Icklesham church.
In the spring of 1857 Millais took lodgings in Savile Row. His studio in Langham Chambers was shared with his friend, J. D. Luard, from 1853 to 1860, when Luard died. The principal pictures exhibited in 1857 were 'Sir Isumbras at the Ford' and 'The Escape of a Heretic.' The knight is old, in golden armour, mounted on a black horse, and is bearing with him two poor children across the river. In front of him a girl is seated, and a boy clings to him from behind. Behind, under a brilliant evening sky, is a landscape composed from the Bridge of Eden and the range of the Ochills, with a tower painted from old Elcho Castle. On the further bank are two nuns.
The comparative freedom with which he was now painting offended Ruskin, who devoted to 'Sir Isumbras' several pages of stern reproof, declaring, in his 'Notes' for 1857, that the change in the artist's manner from the years of 'Ophelia' and 'Mariana' 'is not only Fall—it is catastrophe.' This picture was very cleverly caricatured in a lithograph by Mr. F. Sandys, in which the horse is turned to a donkey branded J. R., the knight into Millais, while Dante Rossetti and Holman Hunt take the places of the girl and the boy. 'Sir Isumbras' was bought by Charles Reade, the novelist, and is now in the possession of Mr. R. V. Benson, at whose request the artist repainted the horse and its trappings. Ruskin was equally severe on 'The Escape of the Heretic' on account of its subject and the violence of its expression. Millais's next important pictures were 'Apple Blossoms' or 'Spring,' and 'The Vale of Rest,' which were exhibited in 1859 (he sent no picture to the academy in 1858). The subject of 'The Vale of Rest' (two nuns in a convent garden, one digging a grave) had occurred to him during his honeymoon, and 'Apple Blossoms' was commenced in 1856. The first was distinguished by its impressive sentiment and the background of oaks and poplars seen against an evening sky. The face of one of the nuns was of repellent ugliness, and was repainted in 1862 from a Miss Lane. 'The Vale of Rest' is now in the Tate Gallery. Both pictures were painted at Bowerswell. In 'Apple Blossoms' some beautiful girls are sporting in an orchard under boughs of brilliant apple blossom, painted with great force and freedom. The central figure is Miss Georgiana Moncrieff (Lady Dudley) ; Lady Forbes, two sisters-in-law, and a model sat for the others. Ruskin extolled the power with which these pictures were painted, and called 'The Vale of Rest' a 'great picture,' but still insisted on the deterioration of the artist. At this time Millais still seems to have suffered much from the animosity of critics and others, and to have felt anxiety about the future ; but he sold all his pictures at good prices, and in 1860 took a house in Bryanston Square, from which he moved to 7 Cromwell Place, South Kensington, in 1862. In 1860 he exhibited 'The Black Brunswicker,' a parting scene between an officer and his fiancee before the battle of Waterloo. The officer was painted from a private in the life guards, and the lady from Miss Kate Dickens (Mrs. Perugini), the daughter of Charles Dickens. The picture was less refined in conception than his other historic love scenes, 'The Huguenot' and 'Proscribed Royalist,' but it was painted with great skill, and may be said to terminate the period of transition from his first or Pre-Raphaelite manner, and that of complete breadth and freedom. Other changes besides that of style begin to be more marked. He became less sedulous in his search for subjects, less romantic in his feeling, more content to paint the life about him, without drawing much upon his imagination, or even his faculty for refined selection. The portrait element, always strong in his work, became stronger, and his family furnished ready subjects for many pictures. At the same time his invention was much employed in illustration, especially of Trollope's novels, 'Orley Farm,' 'Framley Parsonage,' 'The Small House at Allington,' 'Rachel Ray,' and 'Phineas Finn,' for which he made eighty-seven drawings, beginning with 'Framley Parsonage ' in the 'Cornhill Magazine.' Trollope was one of his friends at this time with Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, and John Leech. From 1860 to 1869 he was continually employed in designs to be cut upon wood for Bradbury & Evans, Macmillan, Hurst & Blackett, Chapman & Hall, Smith, Elder, & Co., Dalziel Bros., Mr. Gambart, Moxon (the illustrated edition of Tennyson). He was one of the most prolific and the cleverest of all the book illustrators of this period, so celebrated for its revival of woodcutting, and one or more cuts from his designs are to be found in 'Once a Week,' 'The Cornhill,' 'Punch,' 'The Illustrated London News,' 'Good Words,' 'London Society,' and many books. Later in life (1879) he illustrated 'Barry Lyndon' for the edition de luxe of Thackeray's works. He also made many water-colour replicas of his pictures. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1863. Among the most celebrated historical and poetical pictures of this period (1860-70) were 'The Eve of St. Agnes' (1863), 'Romans leaving Britain' and 'The Evil One sowing Tares' (1865), 'Jephthah' (1867), 'Rosalind and Celia' (1868), 'A Flood,' 'The Boyhood of Raleigh,' and 'The Knight Errant' (1870). The subject of 'The Eve of St. Agnes' is taken from Keats's poem. The heroine is his wife, and the moonlit room in which 'her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees' is at Knole House, Kent. It was painted in five days and a half, in December 1862, and is one of the finest of his works. It now belongs to Mr. Val Prinsep, R.A. 'The Knight Errant' is remarkable from the fine execution of a full-length life-size female figure, the only one to be found in the artist's works. Of the others the most successful, perhaps, were 'The Evil One sowing Tares,' a version in oils of one of a fine series of designs for ' The Parables of Our Lord,' published by Bradbury & Evans, 'A Flood' (a child carried in its wooden cradle down the swollen stream), and 'The Boyhood of Raleigh,' in which two boys (his own sons Everett and George) are listening to the strange tales of a sailor returned from the Spanish main. The newest element in his work of this period was supplied from his own nursery, which afforded subjects for many very popular pictures, like 'My First Sermon,' 'My Second Sermon,' 'Sleeping,' 'Waking,' 'Sisters,' 'The First Minuet,' and 'The Wolfs Den.'
Portraits of other children were also among his greatest successes, like 'Leisure Hours,' the daughters of Sir John Pender with a bowl of goldfish, and 'Miss Nina Lehmann' (Lady Campbell). Most of his pictures were now single figures, with more or less sentiment, like 'Stella' and 'Vanessa,' 'The Gambler's Wife,' 'The Widow's Mite,' and 'Swallow, Swallow.' A more important composition, 'Pilgrims to St. Paul's' (Greenwich pensioners before Nelson's tomb), appealed to national feeling. Technically he had reached full maturity, evidently exulting in his command over his materials and indulging occasionally in a rivalry with the broadest style of Velazquez, as in ' Vanessa,' and 'A Souvenir of Velazquez,' his diploma picture. Belonging to this period, though not exhibited till 1871, was the grandest of his biblical pictures called 'Victory, Lord,' representing Aaron and Hur holding up the hands of Moses on the top of the hill (Exodus xvii. 12).
While at work no one worked harder than Millais, but no one enjoyed his holidays more, or was more convinced of the importance of long and thorough ones. Every year he spent some months in the country, usually in Scotland, where he could indulge his love of shooting and salmon fishing. Most, if not all, of his pure landscapes were also painted there. In 1856 he took the manse of Brig-o'-Turk in Glenfinlas, and in 1860 the shooting of Kincraig, Inverness-shire, with Colonel Aitkin. In 1865 he was shooting with Sir William Harcourt near Inverary, and afterwards visited Florence and Italy in company with Sir William and his wife, and in 1868 he was shooting again with Sir William and with Sir Edwin Landseer, and went with Mr. Frith to Paris, where they made the acquaintance of Rosa Bonheur.
'Chill October,' his first exhibited pure landscape, afterwards bought by Lord Armstrong, was at the academy in 1871, and was painted in the open air from a backwater of the Tay just below Kinfauns, near Perth. It was followed by 'Scotch Firs' and 'Winter Fuel,' painted in 1874, 'The Fringe of the Moor' (1875), 'Over the Hills and Far Away' and 'The Sound of many Waters' (1876), all of which were equally remarkable for their truth to nature and fine execution, but they were without the pathetic sentiment of 'Chill October.' It was to portrait and landscape that he devoted himself mainly after 1870, and to single figures of children and pretty girls under fancy titles like Cherry Ripe,' 'Little Miss Muffet,' 'Cuckoo,' 'Pomona,' 'Olivia,' and many more which were very popular in engravings and in coloured prints for the illustrated newspapers. None of these paintings were perhaps more beautiful or popular than 'Sweetest eyes were ever seen,' 'Caller Herrin',' and 'Cinderella,' for which Miss Beatrice Buxton sat. Inspired by a stronger sentiment were 'The North- West Passage' (1874), 'The Princes in the Tower' (1878), The Princess Elizabeth' (1879), and two illustrations of Scott, 'Effie Deans' and 'The Master of Ravenswood,' painted for Messrs. Agnew in 1877 and 1878. 'The North- West Passage' represents a determined old mariner (a portrait of Edward John Trelawny [q.v.]) in a room overlooking the sea and strewn with charts. He listens to a young woman who is reading some tale of Arctic exploration. The artist never painted a finer head than that of the sailor, and the execution throughout is so fine that the picture is regarded by some as his masterpiece. 'A Yeoman of the Guard' (1877), with his age-worn face and uniform of scarlet and gold, is as strong in character, and perhaps the artist's most splendid effort as a colourist. It was, however, as a portrait painter that he added most to his great reputation during the last twenty-five years of his life. Among his most celebrated sitters were the Marquises of Salisbury, Hartington (Duke of Devonshire), and Lome (Duke of Argyll), the Earls of Shaftesbury, Beaconsfield, and Rosebery, Lord Tennyson, W. E. Gladstone, John Bright, Sir Charles Russell (Lord Russell of Killowen), Cardinal Newman, George Grote, Sir William Sterndale Bennett, Sir James Paget, Sir Henry Thompson, Thomas Carlyle, Wilkie Collins, Sir Henry Irving, J. C. Hook, R.A., and Du Maurier, one of the most intimate of all his friends. All these portraits are lifelike and powerful, giving the very presence of the originals, and inspiring even their clothes with individuality. He was never more successful than in realising the grand head and keen expression of W. E. Gladstone, whom he painted in 1879, 1885, and 1890. He drew Charles Dickens after his death. He was on very friendly terms with Gladstone, Lord Beaconsfield, Lord Rosebery, and indeed with nearly all his sitters.
Among his best portraits of ladies may be mentioned 'Hearts are Trumps' (the three Misses Armstrong), Mrs. Coventry Patmore, Mrs. Bischoffsheim, Mrs. F. H. Myers, Mrs. Stibbard (his wife's sister), Mrs. Jopling, the Duchess of Westminster, and Lady Campbell. To his portraits of children already mentioned may be added Miss Dorothy Thorpe, Lady Peggy Primrose (afterwards Countess of Crewe), and the Princess Marie of Edinburgh, which belonged to Queen Victoria.
In 1875 Millais took a trip to Holland with some of his wife's family, and was greatly impressed by the masterpieces of Rembrandt, Franz Hals, and Van der Heist. In 1878 Millais was represented at the Paris Exhibition by 'Chill October,' 'A Yeoman of the Guard,' 'Madam Bischoffsheim,' 'Hearts are Trumps,' and 'The Bride of Lammermoor,' which greatly increased his reputation in France, and he was made an officer of the legion of honour. In this year came the greatest sorrow of his life in the loss of his second son, George, who had nearly completed his twenty-first year. In 1879 he left Cromwell Place for a house built for him at Palace Gate from the designs of Philip Charles Hardwick, where he remained till he died. In 1880 he painted his own portrait for the Uffizi Gallery at Florence. He still paid his annual visit to Scotland, and in 1881 took a house at Murthly, Little Dunkeld, Perthshire, with good fishing and shooting. At Murthly or its neighbourhood all his other landscapes were painted : 'Murthly Moss,' 'Murthly Water,' 'Dew-drenched Furze,' 'Lingering Autumn,' and others. In 1881 a small exhibition of his pictures was held by the Fine Art Society. On 16 July 1885, at Gladstone's suggestion, he was created a baronet, and among his other honours were honorary degrees at the universities of Oxford (9 June 1880) and Durham. He was an associate of the Institute of France, an honorary member of the Royal Scottish and Royal Hibernian academies, a member of the academies of Vienna, Belgium, Antwerp, and of St. Luke, Rome, and San Fernando, Madrid ; was an officer of the order of Leopold, of the order of St. Maurice, and of the Prussian order, 'Pour le Merite.' In 1886 a large collection of his works was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery.
In 1891 his tenancy of Murthly expired, and he took a shooting with residence at Newmill, which was burnt down in January 1892. About this time his health began to fail. After a bad attack of influenza he was troubled with a swelling in his throat, and suffered much from depression. He still, however, worked whenever he could, and executed with enjoyment several pictures, including 'St. Stephen,' 'A Disciple,' and 'Speak ! Speak !' which was purchased out of the Chantrey bequest. The admirable portraits of Mr. John Hare the actor and Sir Richard Quain also belong to his last years. The last subject picture exhibited by him was 'The Forerunner' (St. John Baptist), which was painted as well as ever, though somewhat trivial in motive.
In 1895, in consequence of the illness of the president, Sir Frederic (afterwards Lord) Leighton [q. v. Suppl.], he was called upon to preside at the Royal Academy banquet, a task he accomplished with great difficulty, owing to the weakness of his voice. On the death of Lord Leighton, on 25 Jan. 1896, he was unanimously elected to succeed him in the presidential chair, but he did not live long to enjoy the honour. He gradually failed, and died of cancer in the throat on 13 Aug. 1896, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral on the 20th. He left a widow and six children ; Lady Millais died on 23 Dec. 1897 of the same disease ; a pencil drawing by herself of Millais's portrait of her is given in Millais's ' Life,' i. 218, and another portrait of her drawn by Mr. G. F. Watts, R.A., is the frontispiece of the second volume. Millais's eldest son Everett, who had succeeded to the baronetcy, died on 7 Sept. 1897. The present baronet is Sir John Everett Millais, son of the second baronet.
Notwithstanding the opposition he had to conquer as a Pre-Raphaelite, Millais's career was one of almost continuous success and prosperity, and perhaps there is no greater proof of his popularity than the number (over a hundred) of his pictures which were separately engraved on steel. The winter exhibition of the Royal Academy 1898 was entirely devoted to his works.
It is too early to fix precisely the position of Millais as an artist, but there is no doubt that he was one of the greatest painters of the nineteenth century, and that he did more than any other of his generation to infuse a new and healthy life into British art. There was nothing of the idealist or visionary in his designs, and he had not a great imagination ; but he could paint what he saw with a force and a truth which have seldom been excelled, and his intense love of nature and of his kind tilled his work with life and poetry.
As a man Millais was frank, manly, and genial, not over-refined, but devoid of affectation. Though of no great intellectual power, he had a strong fund of common sense, and, if not a great reader, was fond of poetry (especially Tennyson and Keats), of the best fiction, and of books of travel, and he could write graceful and humorous verses. In manner and appearance he resembled a country gentleman rather than an artist. He was devoted to his art, but not blind to the advantages of success and prosperity. He was the life of his own family, and regarded with affection by a very large and distinguished circle of acquaintance ; but he did not care for ordinary social gatherings, and preferred to spend his evenings at the Garrick Club, where he was sure to meet a number of congenial friends. In person he was very handsome, his face (which in his youth Rossetti described as that ot an angel) retained great beauty throughout life, and his figure grew well-knit and strong. His fine presence and cheery voice made themselves felt wherever he went, and there were few who knew him well who would not echo the words of Sir George Reid, P.R.S.A., who wrote of him as 'one of the kindest, noblest, most beautiful and lovable men I ever knew or ever hope to know.'
Besides the portrait of Millais which was painted by himself for the Uffizi Gallery, there are portraits of him by John Philip in 1841, by Mr. G. F. Watts, R.A., in 1871, and by Sir Henry Thompson, bart., in 1881. These, with sketches of him by his brother, W. H. Millais, John Leech, and others, are reproduced in J. G. Millais's 'Life and Letters' (1899).
The following works of Millais are to be found in public galleries. National Gallery, Trafalgar Square : 'Portrait of W. E. Gladstone' (1879) and 'A Yeoman of the Guard.' National Gallery of British Art : ‘Ophelia,’ ‘The Vale of Rest,’ ‘The Knight Errant,’ ‘The North-West Passage,’ ‘Mercy,’ ‘St. Bartholomew's Day, 1572,’ ‘Saint Stephen,’ ‘A Disciple,’ ‘Speak! Speak!,’ ‘The Order of Release, 1746,’ and ‘The Boyhood of Raleigh.’ Victoria and Albert Museum: ‘Pizarro seizing the Inca of Peru’ and ‘Lord Lytton.’ The National Portrait Gallery: ‘Lord Beaconsfield,’ ‘Thomas Carlyle,’ ‘Wilkie Collins,’ and ‘Leech.’ Oxford University Gallery: ‘The Return of the Dove’ and ‘Portrait of Thomas Combe.’ Manchester Corporation Gallery: ‘Autumn Leaves,’ ‘A Flood,’ ‘Victory, O Lord,’ ‘Winter Fuel,’ and ‘Bishop Fraser.’ Birmingham Art Gallery: ‘The Huguenot’ (1856), ‘The Widow's Mite,’ and ‘The Blind Girl.’ Holloway College: ‘Princes in the Tower’ and ‘Princess Elizabeth.’ Liverpool Art Gallery: ‘Isabella,’ ‘The First Minuet,’ and ‘The Martyr of the Solway.’ St. Bartholomew's Hospital: ‘Sir James Paget’ and ‘Luther Holden.’ University of London: ‘George Grote.’ British and Foreign Bible Society: ‘Lord Shaftesbury.’ University of Glasgow: ‘Dr. Caird.’ Corporation of Oldham: ‘T. O. Barlow, R.A.’
[Life &c. by J. G. Millais, 1899; Art Annual, 1886 (memoir by Sir Walter Armstrong); Cat. of Grosvenor Gallery, Summer Exhibition, 1886 (F. G. Stephens); Chambers's Encyclopædia (art. ‘Pre-Raphaelitism’, by W. Holman Hunt); Royal Academy Cat., Winter, 1898; Cat. of Fine Art Society, 1881 (A. Lang); Holman Hunt's Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1905; Pre-Raphaelite Diaries and Letters, ed. W. M. Rossetti; Cat. National Gallery of British Art; Spielmann's Millais and his Works; Sir W. B. Richmond's Leighton, Millais, &c.; J. B. Payne's The Pedigree of the Family of Millais; Ruskin's Notes on Royal Academy Exhibitions, Pre-Raphaelitism, and Modern Painters; Autobiographical Notes of William Bell Scott; Memoirs of Coventry Patmore; Frith's Reminiscences.]