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Title: Millais - Masterpieces in Colour Series
Author: Baldry, Alfred Lys
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MASTERPIECES IN COLOUR

EDITED BY--T. LEMAN HARE


MILLAIS

1829--1896



"MASTERPIECES IN COLOUR" SERIES

      ARTIST.                     AUTHOR.
    BELLINI.                    GEORGE HAY.
    BOTTICELLI.                 HENRY B. BINNS.
    BOUCHER.                    C. HALDANE MACFALL.
    BURNE-JONES.                A. LYS BALDRY.
    CARLO DOLCI.                GEORGE HAY.
    CHARDIN.                    PAUL G. KONODY.
    CONSTABLE.                  C. LEWIS HIND.
    COROT.                      SIDNEY ALLNUTT.
    DA VINCI.                   M. W. BROCKWELL.
    DELACROIX.                  PAUL G. KONODY.
    DÜRER.                      H. E. A. FURST.
    FRA ANGELICO.               JAMES MASON.
    FRA FILIPPO LIPPI.          PAUL G. KONODY.
    FRAGONARD.                  C. HALDANE MACFALL.
    FRANZ HALS.                 EDGCUMBE STALEY.
    GAINSBOROUGH.               MAX ROTHSCHILD.
    GREUZE.                     ALYS EYRE MACKLIN.
    HOGARTH.                    C. LEWIS HIND.
    HOLBEIN.                    S. L. BENSUSAN.
    HOLMAN HUNT.                MARY E. COLERIDGE.
    INGRES.                     A. J. FINBERG.
    LAWRENCE.                   S. L. BENSUSAN.
    LE BRUN, VIGÉE.             C. HALDANE MACFALL.
    LEIGHTON.                   A. LYS BALDRY.
    LUINI.                      JAMES MASON.
    MANTEGNA.                   MRS. ARTHUR BELL.
    MEMLINC.                    W. H. J. & J. C. WEALE.
    MILLAIS.                    A. LYS BALDRY.
    MILLET.                     PERCY M. TURNER.
    MURILLO.                    S. L. BENSUSAN.
    PERUGINO.                   SELWYN BRINTON.
    RAEBURN.                    JAMES L. CAW.
    RAPHAEL.                    PAUL G. KONODY.
    REMBRANDT.                  JOSEF ISRAELS.
    REYNOLDS.                   S. L. BENSUSAN.
    ROMNEY.                     C. LEWIS HIND.
    ROSSETTI.                   LUCIEN PISSARRO.
    RUBENS.                     S. L. BENSUSAN.
    SARGENT.                    T. MARTIN WOOD.
    TINTORETTO.                 S. L. BENSUSAN.
    TITIAN.                     S. L. BENSUSAN.
    TURNER.                     C. LEWIS HIND.
    VAN DYCK.                   PERCY M. TURNER.
    VELAZQUEZ.                  S. L. BENSUSAN.
    WATTEAU.                    C. LEWIS HIND.
    WATTS.                      W. LOFTUS HARE.
    WHISTLER.                   T. MARTIN WOOD.

_Others in Preparation._



[Illustration: PLATE I.--THE ORDER OF RELEASE.  Frontispiece
(Tate Gallery)

This is one of the pictures which Millais always reckoned among the
greatest of all his successes, and that it has many notable qualities
which justify his preference can certainly not be denied. It is
wonderful in its earnest and thoughtful realism, and it explains its
motive with a completeness that is most convincing. The expression on
the face of the woman who brings the order which frees her husband from
prison is singularly happy in its combination of tenderness for the
wounded Highlander, and triumph over the hesitating gaoler; and there
are many other little touches, like the joyous effusiveness of the dog,
and the unconsciousness of the sleeping child, which amplify and perfect
the pictorial story.]



Millais

BY A. LYS BALDRY

ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR


[Illustration]

LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK

NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  Plate
     I. The Order of Release, 1746      Frontispiece
          At the Tate Gallery
                                                Page
    II. The Boyhood of Raleigh                    14
          At the Tate Gallery

   III. The Knight Errant                         24
          At the Tate Gallery

    IV. Autumn Leaves                             34
          At Manchester Art Gallery

     V. Speak! Speak!                             40
          At the Tate Gallery

    VI. The Vale of Rest                          50
          At the Tate Gallery

   VII. Ophelia                                   60
          At the Tate Gallery

  VIII. The North-West Passage                    70
          At the Tate Gallery



[Illustration]


As a record of some half century of brilliant activity, and of
practically unbroken success, the life-story of John Everett Millais is
in many respects unlike those which can be told about the majority of
artists who have played great parts in the modern art world. He had
none of the hard struggle for recognition, or of the fight against
adverse circumstances, which have too often embittered the earlier years
of men destined to take eventually the highest rank in their profession.
Things went well with him from the first; he gained attention at an age
when most painters have barely begun to make a bid for popularity, and
his position was assured almost before he had arrived at man's estate.
He owed some of his success, no doubt, to his attractive and vigorous
personality, but it was due in far greater measure to the extraordinary
powers which he manifested from the very outset of his career.

[Illustration: PLATE II.--THE BOYHOOD OF RALEIGH (Tate Gallery)

It would not be inappropriate to describe the "Boyhood of Raleigh" as
the prologue to the romance of which the last chapter is written in the
"North-West Passage," for in both pictures the artist suggests the
fascination of the adventurous life. Young Raleigh and his boy friend
are under the spell of the story which the sailor is telling them, a
story evidently of engrossing interest and stimulating to the
imagination. The faces of the lads show how inspiring they find this
tale of strange experiences in lands beyond the sea.]

For there was something almost sensational in the manner of his
development, in his unusual precocity, and in the youthful
self-confidence which enabled him to take a prominent place among the
leaders of artistic opinion while he was still little more than a boy.
So early was the proof given that he possessed absolutely uncommon
powers, that he was not more than nine years old when he began serious
art training; and so evident even then was his destiny that this
training was commenced on the advice of Sir Martin Archer Shee, the
President of the Royal Academy, to whom the child's performances had
been submitted by parents anxious for an expert opinion. The President's
declaration when he saw these early efforts, that "nature had provided
for the boy's success," was emphatic enough to dissipate any doubts
there might have been whether or not young Millais was to be encouraged
in his artistic inclinations; and that this emphasis was justified by
subsequent results no one to-day can dispute.

The family from which Millais sprang was not one with any past record of
art achievement. His ancestors were men of action and inclined rather to
be fighters than students of the arts. They were Normans who had settled
in Jersey, and had for several hundred years been counted among the more
important landholders in that island, where at different times they held
several estates. From these ancestors Millais derived his energetic
temperament and that militant activity which enabled him in his career
as an artist to triumph signally over established prejudices--the
qualities which undoubtedly helped him to make his power felt even by
the people who were most opposed to him.

He was born on June 8th, 1829, at Southampton, where his parents were
temporarily living, but his earliest years were spent in Jersey. It was
in 1835 that he began to show definitely his artistic inclinations; he
was at Dinan then with his parents and he amused himself there by making
sketches of the country and people with success so remarkable that even
strangers did not hesitate to recognise him as a budding genius. Three
years later this estimate was confirmed by Sir Martin Archer Shee, and
the boy was then sent to work at the art school which Henry Sass carried
on in Bloomsbury, a school which had at that time a considerable
reputation as a training place for art students, and in which most of
the early Victorian painters received their preliminary education.

Soon after he entered this school Millais gave a very striking proof of
his precocious ability--he gained the silver medal of the Society of
Arts for a drawing of the antique, and an amusing story is told of the
sensation he created when he appeared at the prize-giving to receive his
award. The Duke of Sussex was presiding at the meeting, and to his
amazement, when the name of "Mr Millais" was called, a small child
presented himself as the winner of the medal. To amazement succeeded
admiration when a consultation with the officials of the Society proved
that this boy of nine was really the successful competitor, and the
presentation was received with great applause by the spectators of the
scene.

After two years' work under Sass, with some study in the British Museum
in addition, he was admitted into the schools of the Royal Academy, and,
though his age then was only eleven, he began almost immediately to
prove how well he could hold his own in this new sphere of activity.
During the six years over which his studentship at the Academy extended
he won every prize for which he competed, and carried off finally the
gold medal for historical painting with a picture of "The Tribe of
Benjamin Seizing the Daughters of Shiloh." This was in 1847; in the
previous year he had made his first appearance as an exhibitor at the
Academy with an ambitious composition, "Pizarro Seizing the Inca of
Peru," which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. His most
ambitious effort at this period was, however, the design, "The Widow
Bestowing her Mite," which he produced in 1847 for the Westminster Hall
competition, a vast canvas crowded with life-sized figures which was
remarkable enough to have made the reputation of a far older and more
experienced painter.

So far his progress had been without interruption. The rare brilliancy
of his student career had gained him the fullest approval of his
fellow-workers in art, and he was beginning his career as a producer
with every prospect of becoming immediately one of the most popular
artists of his time. Everything was in his favour; he had undeniable
ability, good health, and an attractive personality, and he had proved
in many ways that, young as he was, he could handle large undertakings
with sound judgment and complete confidence. Yet, with what seemed to be
his way smooth before him, he did not hesitate to risk his already
assured position in the art world by setting himself openly in
opposition to the opinions of practically all the men who were then
counted as the leaders of his profession. That he knew what might be the
penalty he would have to pay for this rebellion against the fashion of
the moment can scarcely be doubted, but he was by nature too strenuous a
fighter to be daunted by dangerous possibilities, and his convictions,
once formed, were always too strong to yield to any considerations of
expediency.

In 1848, he and two friends of about his own age, Dante Gabriel
Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt, conceived the idea of making a
practical protest against the inefficiency of the work which was being
done by the more popular artists of the time. The three youths had come
under the influence of Ford Madox Brown, who with splendid sincerity was
labouring to realise an ideal based not upon fashion, but upon an
earnest desire for truthful expression, and by his example they were
induced to study a purer type of art than any they could see about them.
For this purer art they turned to the works of the Italian Primitives,
whose childlike unconventionality and unhesitating naturalism touched a
responsive chord in the natures of these youths who still retained some
of the simple faith in reality which is one of the charms of childhood.
They decided that for the future they would base their own practice
upon that of the early Italians, and that they would have none of the
artificialities of the age in which they found themselves. Their resolve
was a bold one, but the manner in which they proceeded to make it
effective was bolder still.

[Illustration: PLATE III.--THE KNIGHT ERRANT (Tate Gallery)

It is generally recognised that the effective representation of the nude
figure imposes the severest test not only upon an artist's powers of
drawing and painting but upon his sense of æsthetic propriety as well.
The "Knight Errant" proves beyond dispute that Millais was able to pass
this test triumphantly, for the picture is a magnificent technical
achievement and is absolutely discreet in treatment. The subject, a lady
rescued from robbers by a wandering knight, is one which occurs
frequently in mediæval romance.]

They organised an association, the title of which, "The Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood," significantly asserted the nature of their artistic aims,
and as the founders of this association they pledged themselves to seek
the inspiration of their art in those Italian painters who had lived
before Raphael was born, and whose sterling principles were abandoned by
Raphael and his successors. To the three founders of the Brotherhood
were joined two other painters, James Collinson, and F. G. Stephens, a
sculptor, Thomas Woolner and Dante Gabriel Rossetti's brother, William
Michael, who, being a writer, was given the office of secretary. The
Brotherhood, so constituted, was formally inaugurated in the autumn of
1848, and the members at once set to work to prove by their acts the
reality of their belief in the creed they had adopted.

The first fruits of the movement were seen in the following spring at
the Academy where Millais, who was then, it must be remembered, not
quite twenty, exhibited his "Lorenzo and Isabella," a picture striking
in its originality and in its unusual power. What it implied was not,
however, immediately realised by the public; that the manner of the
painting made it very unlike those by which it was surrounded was
generally recognised, but most people, if they thought about the matter
at all, seem to have assumed that the painter had failed to bring
himself into line with the art of his time through youthful inexperience
rather than by deliberate intention. Time and practice, they considered,
would correct such deficiencies in taste as were apparent in the
"Lorenzo and Isabella," and when the lad had arrived at years of
discretion he would be the first to see the necessity for amendment.

But the members of the Brotherhood, probably feeling that their initial
effort had not produced quite the effect intended, took other steps to
define their attitude. They started, in January 1850, a magazine called
_The Germ_, which was proffered as the organ of the new movement. It
was sufficiently uncompromising in its confession of faith, and neither
its text nor its illustrations were wanting in clearness of statement.
The magazine, indeed, was what it was intended to be, an open challenge
to all the advocates of the old order of things; and as such it was
taken by the people who saw it. It was only in existence for four
months, but even in that short time it did its work thoroughly, and put
an end to any doubts there were in the minds of art lovers and art
workers concerning the meaning of Pre-Raphaelitism; thenceforward
Millais and his friends had certainly no reason to complain of being
ignored.

The attention which was given to the pictures they sent to the 1850
Academy exhibition was, however, by no means what they desired, though,
doubtless, it must have been much what they expected. Millais exhibited
a "Portrait of a Gentleman and his Grandchild," "Ferdinand Lured by
Ariel," and "Christ in the House of His Parents"--better known as "The
Carpenter's Shop"--and these visible embodiments of the principles laid
down in _The Germ_ were received with an absolute storm of abuse. The
audacity of the young painters who sought by works of this character to
discredit the smug and artificial respectability of the art which was
then in vogue excited the critics beyond control and brought forth a
veritable orgie of virulent expostulation.

Millais, with his mind made up and his fighting instinct fully roused,
was not the man to yield to clamour. He made no concessions, but,
loyally supporting the policy of the Brotherhood, showed at the Academy
in 1851 "The Woodman's Daughter," "Mariana in the Moated Grange," and
"The Return of the Dove to the Ark," all of which were as frank in their
Pre-Raphaelitism as any of the previous year's canvases, and all of
which were greeted with even more vehement disapproval by the literary
custodians of the popular taste. Every possible kind of
misrepresentation of the aims of the young painter and his friends was
employed to discredit their efforts, all sorts of base motives were
imputed to them; ridicule, specious argument, and insult were used in
turn to drive them from the course they had deliberately chosen. Appeals
were even made to the Academy to have the pictures, round which this
controversy was raging, removed summarily from the exhibition as things
unfit to be set before the eyes of the public. But fortunately the
courage of the Brotherhood was proof against everything which the
opposition could do, and neither abuse nor threats had any effect. Yet
Millais at the time suffered for his principles; paintings which had
been commissioned were thrown upon his hands, and his pictures almost
ceased to be saleable. He had every proof that his Pre-Raphaelitism was
commercially a mistake and that, if he persisted, the absolute marring
of his career as a popular painter, was more than likely, yet, so
stubborn was his conviction that he made no change in either his
principles or his practice.

Happily, as time went on, the position of affairs began to improve; the
opposition exhausted itself by excess of violence, and able champions of
the movement took up the cudgels in defence of the young artists. One of
the most authoritative of these champions was Ruskin, who found in this
apparently forlorn hope infinite possibilities of artistic progress, and
whose declaration that the Pre-Raphaelites were laying "the foundations
of a school of art nobler than the world has seen for three hundred
years" generously expressed his sentiments towards the Brotherhood. He
took the trouble to study their art, and to analyse their motives, so
that he based his advocacy not upon vague sympathy but upon real
understanding of artistic principles which were sane and sound enough to
satisfy even his exacting demand for purity of æsthetic purpose.
That the ultimate success of Pre-Raphaelitism was due to his energetic
interposition cannot, of course, be claimed--the boldness and tenacity
of the artists who had adopted the new creed had more to do with the
improvement which was brought about in the popular attitude--but
Ruskin's counter attack upon the critics had a valuable effect, and
undoubtedly helped greatly to open the eyes of the public.

[Illustration: PLATE IV.--AUTUMN LEAVES (Manchester Art Gallery)

As an example of the quiet and unforced sentiment which characterises so
many of the pictures which Millais painted, this delightful composition
deserves particular consideration. It has a certain severity of design
and solemnity of manner, but in its suggestion of the sadness of autumn
there is no trace of morbid sentimentality and no kind of theatrical
effect. The picture is a sort of allegory expressed with exquisite
tenderness, and with a simple frankness of manner which is especially
persuasive.]

It is interesting, too, to note that just at the moment when the attack
was fiercest the Royal Academy showed its faith in Millais by electing
him an Associate. He is said to have been the youngest student ever
received into the Academy schools, and he must have been one of the
youngest painters ever chosen as an Associate, for after his election it
was discovered that he had not reached the age at which, under the
Academy rules, admission to the Associateship was possible. So his
election had to be declared invalid and he had to wait some few years
longer--until 1853--for the official recognition of his claims. But it
must assuredly be counted to the credit of the Academy that such
readiness should have been shown to admit the ability of a young artist
who was openly in rebellion against the fashions of his time, and whose
work was by implication a condemnation of much that was being done even
by members of the Academic circle.

His election in 1853 came more as a matter of course; by that date he
had won his way to a position which could scarcely be questioned even by
the bitterest opponents of Pre-Raphaelitism, and he had laid securely
the foundations of that remarkable popularity which he was destined to
enjoy for the rest of his life. It would have been hard, indeed, to deny
that he deserved whatever rewards were due to artistic merit of the
highest order, for his pictures had passed well beyond the stage of
brilliant promise into that of commanding achievement. His "Ophelia" and
"The Huguenot" in 1852, his "Order of Release" and "The Proscribed
Royalist" in 1853, and his exquisite "Portrait of Mr. Ruskin" in 1854,
are to be accounted as masterly performances which would have done full
credit to a painter whose skill had been matured by more than half a
lifetime of strenuous effort, and which, as the productions of a young
man who did not reach his twenty-fifth birthday until the summer of
1854, are of really extraordinary importance. The "Ophelia," "The
Huguenot," and "The Order of Release," can be placed, indeed, among the
most memorable expositions of his artistic conviction, and the "Portrait
of Mr. Ruskin" ranks with the "Ophelia" as one of the most astonishing
examples of searching and faithful study which can be found in modern
art.

These pictures were followed closely by others not less notable--by "The
Rescue" in 1855, by "Autumn Leaves," "The Random Shot," "The Blind
Girl," and "Peace Concluded," in 1856, and by "Sir Isumbras at the
Ford," "The Escape of a Heretic," and "News from Home," in 1857. Of this
group "Sir Isumbras at the Ford" was the least successful, but "Autumn
Leaves," with its exquisite delicacy of sentiment, and those two
delightful little canvases, "The Blind Girl," and "The Random Shot," are
of supreme interest both on account of the depth of thought which they
reveal and of their splendid executive accomplishment.

[Illustration: PLATE V.--SPEAK! SPEAK! (Tate Gallery)

To the man who has loved and lost, the vision of his lady appearing to
him as he lies awake at dawn seems so real and living that he begs her
to speak to him, and stretches out his arms to clasp what is after all
only a creation of his imagination. The dramatic feeling of the picture
is as convincing as its pathos; the painter has grasped completely the
possibilities of his subject, and he tells his story with just the touch
of mystery needed to give it due significance. The management of the
light and shade, and of the contrast between the warm lamplight and the
greyness of the early morning, is full of both power and subtlety.]

Another great picture appeared in 1859--"The Vale of Rest," which
differed from most of the works which Millais had hitherto produced in
its larger qualities of handling and more serious symbolism. Its special
importance was not fully realised by the artist's admirers when it was
first exhibited, but Millais himself looked upon it as the best thing he
had done; and this opinion has since been generally recognised as
sufficiently well founded. He had not before shown so much solemnity of
feeling nor quite so complete a grasp of the larger pictorial
essentials, though in "Autumn Leaves" there was decidedly more than a
hint of the seriousness of purpose which gave authority and dignity of
style to "The Vale of Rest."

There was at this time a change coming over his art, a change which
suggested that the stricter limits of Pre-Raphaelitism were a little too
narrow for him now that his youthful enthusiasms were being replaced by
the more tolerant ideas of mental maturity. But he was in no haste to
abandon his earlier principles; he sought rather to find how they might
be widened to cover artistic motives which scarcely came within the
scope of the creed to which the Brotherhood had originally been pledged.
So he alternated between the literalism of "The Black Brunswicker"
(1860), "The White Cockade" (1862), "My First Sermon" (1863), "My
Second Sermon" (1864), and "Asleep" and "Awake," which were shown in
1867 with that daintiest of all his earlier paintings, "The Minuet," and
the sombre suggestion of such imaginative pictures as "The Enemy Sowing
Tares," and the finely conceived "Eve of St. Agnes," of which the former
was exhibited at the Academy in 1865, and the latter in 1863. It seemed
as if he was trying to make up his mind as to the direction he was to
take for the future, testing his powers in various ways, and studying
himself to see how his wishes and his temperament could best be brought
into accord.

But when in 1868 he broke into the new art world in which he was to
reign supreme for nearly thirty years, his abandonment of the technical
methods which he had adopted in 1849, and used ever since with
comparatively little modification, was as decisive as it was surprising.
In 1867 he was the careful, searching, and literal student of small
details, precise in brushwork, and exactly realistic in his record of
what he had microscopically examined. His "Asleep" and "Awake" were in
his most matter-of-fact vein, almost pedantically accurate in statement
of obvious facts; and even his charming "Minuet" was elaborated with a
care that left nothing for the imagination to supply. In 1868, however,
all this dwelling upon little things, all this studied minuteness of
touch and literal presentation of what was obvious, had suddenly
disappeared. All that remained to him of his Pre-Raphaelitism was the
acuteness of vision which had served him so well for twenty years in
his intimate examination of nature; everything else had gone, his minute
actuality was replaced by large and generous suggestion, his restrained
brushwork by the broadest and most emphatic handling, his realistic view
by a kind of magnificent impressionism which expressed rightly enough
the personal robustness of the man himself.

What made this change the more dramatic was the absence of any
suggestion in his previous work that he was preparing for an executive
departure of such a marked kind. A diversion into a new class of
subjects, or an inclination towards a more serious type of sentiment,
might perhaps have been looked for from the painter of "The Vale of
Rest," "The Enemy Sowing Tares," and "The Eve of St. Agnes," but even
in the larger manner of these pictures, there was little to imply that
he desired to adopt a new mode of painting. But if the "Souvenir of
Velazquez," "Stella," "The Pilgrims to St. Paul's," and "The Sisters,"
which he contributed to the 1868 Academy, are compared with what he had
done before, the full significance of his action can be perceived.

The "Souvenir of Velazquez," indeed, is one of the most decisive pieces
of fluent brushwork which has been produced by any modern painter of the
British school. It is entirely convincing in its directness and in its
summariness of executive suggestion, and as a masterly performance it is
by no means unworthy to stand beside the works of that master to whom it
was in some sort designed as a tribute. But it has a peculiarly English
charm which Millais grafted with happy discretion on to the technical
manner of the Spanish school, and as a study of childish grace it is
almost inimitably persuasive. The little princesses whom Velazquez
painted were too often robbed of their daintiness by the formality of
the surroundings in which it was their misfortune to be placed, but the
child in this picture by Millais has lost none of her freshness, and,
with all her finery, is still a happy, young, little thing, ready for a
romp as soon as the sitting is over. In the long series of fascinating
studies of child-life which he painted with quite exquisite sympathy,
this one claims a place of particular prominence on account of its
beauty of characterisation, and its entire absence of affectation, quite
as much as it does on account of its qualities as a consummate exercise
in craftsmanship.

This was the canvas which he finally decided to hand over to the Academy
as his diploma work. He had been promoted to the rank of Academician in
1863, and his intention then was to be represented in the Diploma
Gallery by "The Enemy Sowing Tares," which he regarded as in every way a
sound example of his powers. But his fellow-Academicians, for some not
very intelligible reason, did not agree with him about the suitability
of this picture, and it was, therefore, refused. So he sent them the
"Souvenir of Velazquez" instead, a fortunate choice, for it brought
permanently into a quasi-public gallery what is indisputably an
achievement worthy of him at his best.

[Illustration: PLATE VI.--THE VALE OF REST (Tate Gallery)

None of the pictures which can be assigned to the period when Millais
was still a strict adherent to the Pre-Raphaelite creed can be said to
surpass "The Vale of Rest" in depth and purity of feeling; and certainly
none expresses better in its character and manner of treatment the
artist's conception. The same exquisite sentiment, sincere and
dignified, which distinguishes "Autumn Leaves" gives to "The Vale of
Rest" an absorbing interest; and the way in which every detail of the
composition and every subtlety in the arrangement and expression of the
subject have been used to enhance the effect which the artist intended
to produce, claims unqualified admiration.]

Once started on his new direction as a painter he went forward with
unhesitating confidence in his ability to realise his intentions, and as
the years passed by he added picture after picture to the already large
company of his successes. His admirers, surprised as they were at first
by his startling change of manner, did not hesitate to accept what he
had to offer; indeed the splendid vigour of his work brought him an
immediate increase of popularity, and he was thenceforth recognised at
home and abroad as one of the most commanding figures in the whole array
of British art, as a leader whose authority was not to be questioned.

In 1869 he exhibited his portrait of "Nina, Daughter of F. Lehmann,
Esq.," "The Gambler's Wife," a "Portrait of Sir John Fowler," and
"Vanessa," a companion picture to his "Stella;" and in 1870 "A Widow's
Mite," "The Boyhood of Raleigh," and "The Knight Errant," with some
other works of less importance. The portrait of Miss Lehmann is one of
the pictures upon which his reputation most securely rests, admirable in
its technical quality and its observation of character; and among the
others "The Boyhood of Raleigh," and "The Knight Errant," are worthiest
of attention because they are treated with great distinction, and have
in large measure that interest which always results from judicious
interpretation of a well-selected subject.

"The Boyhood of Raleigh," especially, is to be considered on account of
its possession of a certain dramatic sentiment which might easily have
been made theatrical by an artist less surely endowed with a sense of
fitness. But it tells its story with charm and conviction, and there is
in the action of the figures, and in the expressions on the faces, just
the right degree of vitality needed to make clear the pictorial motive.
"The Knight Errant" is, perhaps, less significant as a piece of
invention, but it has a distinct place in the artist's list of
achievements, because it affords one of the few instances of his
treatment of the nude figure on a large scale. It proves plainly enough
that his avoidance of subjects of this class was not due to any
inability on his part to succeed as a flesh painter, for this figure is
beautiful both in colour and handling; it is more probable that the
classic formality and conventionality which public opinion in this
country requires in the representation of the nude did not appeal to a
man with his love of actuality and sincere regard for nature's facts.
Indeed, from the standpoint of the decorative figure painter--of men
like Leighton, or Albert Moore, for instance--the woman that Millais has
represented is too frankly unidealised, too modern in type, and too
realistically feminine.

But in this disregard of convention there is a kind of summing up of his
beliefs as an artist. Though he had changed the outward aspect of his
art he was still in spirit a Pre-Raphaelite, and a Pre-Raphaelite he
remained to the end of his days. He depended more upon the keenness of
vision natural to him, and assiduously cultivated by years of close
observation, than upon what powers he may have had of abstract
imagining; and he sought to only a limited extent to set down upon his
canvas those mental images which satisfy men who look upon nature
chiefly as a basis for decorative designs. The mental image with him was
a direct reflection of fact, not an adaptation modified and formalised
in accordance with recognised rules, not a fancy more or less remotely
referable to reality; but he had certainly an ample equipment of that
taste which enables the painter to discriminate between the realities
which are too crude and obvious to be worth recording, and those which
by their inherent beauty claim a permanent place in an artist's memory.
He had, too, the judgment to see that the nude, treated as it would
have to be to satisfy his æsthetic conscience, would be too plainly
stated to be entirely acceptable.

He found a much more appropriate field for the exercise of his
particular capacities by turning to landscape painting. Many of his
earlier figure compositions had been given backgrounds which showed how
well he could manage the complex details of masses of tangled
vegetation, or the broad and simple lines of a piece of rural scenery;
but in 1871 he attempted for the first time a landscape which was
complete in itself and not merely incidental in a picture mainly
concerned with human interest. This landscape, "Chill October," was at
the Academy with his "Yes or No?" "Victory, O Lord," "A Somnambulist,"
and the "Portrait of George Grote," and it was welcomed by a host of
admirers as a new revelation of his versatility. It has certainly
qualities which justify the estimation in which it was and is still
held; and though it lacks that imaginative insight into poetic
subtleties which accounts for so much in the work of a master like
Turner, it must always claim the respect of art lovers as a large,
dignified, and sincere study of nature in one of her sadder moods. It is
the reserve of the picture, its reticent realism, that chiefly makes it
memorable, for it is neither imposing in subject nor striking in effect;
but in its broad simplicity there is something rarely fascinating.

Other nature studies of the same character followed at brief intervals
during the next few years; they added to the interest of the artist's
practice, but they can scarcely be said to have equalled in importance
the portraits and figure subjects which he completed at this stage of
his career. Millais was, of course, far too great a master to have
failed in any branch of artistic practice to which he seriously devoted
himself, but the very capacities which made him so successful as a
painter of the human subject prevented him from looking at open-air
nature with the necessary degree of abstraction. The physical character
of a piece of scenery, its details and individual peculiarities, he
could record with absolute certainty, though the elusive subtleties of
atmosphere, and the charming accidents of illumination, which mean so
much in the poetic rendering of landscape, he dwelt upon hardly at
all. In many of his landscapes the breadth and dignity, the accurate
relation of part to part, the fascinating simplicity of manner, which
are among the greater merits of "Chill October," can be praised without
reservation or hesitation; but the touch of fantasy, of actual
unreality, by which the inspired landscape painter seems to suggest more
truly the real spirit of nature, he hardly ever attempted; and never, it
may fairly be said, with complete success.

[Illustration: PLATE VII.--OPHELIA (Tate Gallery)

Realism more searching and more significant than that which Millais
sought for and attained in this small canvas would hardly come within
the bounds of possibility. But the picture is much more than a simple
study of facts; it has an exquisite charm of poetic feeling, and it is
conceived with a full measure of the tenderness needed in a
representation of the most pathetic of all Shakespeare's heroines. Such
a work has a place, definite and indisputable, among the classics of
art, and counts as one of the chief masterpieces of the British School.]

The years over which his activity as an exponent of pure landscape
extended are, however, memorable because they saw the production of some
of the most triumphant achievements of his maturer life. With his two
landscapes, "Flowing to the Sea," and "Flowing to the River," he
exhibited in 1872 his "Hearts are Trumps," a portrait group which has
become a modern classic; and in 1873 another wonderful portrait, the
three-quarter length of "Mrs. Bischoffsheim." But it was in 1874 that he
showed what is in many ways the greatest of all his paintings, "The
North-West Passage," a work which, if he had done nothing else of
moment, would suffice to place him securely among the master painters of
the world. The head of the old man, who is the central figure in the
picture, is entirely magnificent, and there is much besides in this
canvas which would have been beyond the reach of any one but an artist
of almost abnormal power. This was followed in 1875 by his portrait of
"Miss Eveleen Tennant," and in 1877 by the "Yeoman of the Guard," which
runs "The North-West Passage" close in the race for supremacy.

At this time, indeed, his productiveness was extraordinary; subject
pictures, portraits, and landscapes appeared in rapid succession, and in
all of them he kept to a level of masterly practice which other men
reach only occasionally and at rare intervals. Between 1873 and 1879 he
painted eight landscapes, all important in scale and interesting in
treatment, but after 1879 he produced no more for nearly ten years, when
he began a fresh series. He was apparently too busy with portraits and
figure subjects to give much time to out-of-door work, and to satisfy
the demands made upon him by art collectors and sitters he must have had
to work his hardest. Yet popularity did not make him careless, and his
hard work diminished neither his freshness of outlook nor his freedom of
expression. Conscientiousness as a craftsman was always one of his
virtues, and the knowledge that he had a host of admirers ready to
accept almost anything he would give them had certainly not the effect
of inducing him to lower his standard.

In the long list of his paintings, which belong to the period beginning
in 1879 and ending in 1888, several stand out with special
prominence--for example, his portraits of "Mrs. Jopling," and "The Right
Hon. W. E. Gladstone," "Cherry Ripe," and "The Princess Elizabeth," all
in 1879, "The Right Hon. John Bright" in 1880, "Cardinal Newman,"
"Alfred, Lord Tennyson," "Sir Henry Thompson," "Cinderella," and
"Caller Herrin'," in 1881, "J. C. Hook, R.A.," and "The Captive," in
1882, "The Marquess of Salisbury" in 1883, "The Ruling Passion," and
another portrait of Gladstone, in 1885, "Bubbles" in 1886, and "The
Marquess of Hartington" in 1887. Some of these were shown at the
Academy, but he was producing far more year by year than could be
exhibited there, so he sent many important works to the Grosvenor
Gallery, and most of his subject pictures to the galleries of the
dealers by whom they were commissioned.

After 1888 there was some relaxation in his effort; in that year he had
at the Academy only one picture, a landscape, "Murthly Moss," and only
one portrait in each of the years 1889 and 1890, though he showed
several works in other galleries. In 1892 his landscapes "Halcyon
Weather," and "Blow, Blow, thou Winter Wind," were at the Academy, but
after that year he worked no more out-of-doors. Of the canvases painted
during the last three or four years of his life, the most memorable are
his portrait of "John Hare" (1893), "Speak! Speak!" (1895), and "A
Forerunner" (1896), all of which were at the Academy, and "Time the
Reaper" which was at the New Gallery in 1895. "Speak! Speak!" was
purchased by the Chantrey Fund trustees, and is now in the National
Gallery of British Art with the other admirably chosen examples of his
art which were given to the nation by Sir Henry Tate.

The crowning honour of his life came to him in February 1896, when he
was elected President of the Royal Academy in succession to Lord
Leighton--an honour which was particularly appropriate not only because
of his eminence as an artist, but also because he had been intimately
connected for nearly sixty years with the institution over which he was
then called to preside. To this connection he referred in his speech at
the Academy banquet in 1895, at which he took the chair in the place of
Leighton whose illness prevented him from occupying his accustomed
position. The words which Millais used on this occasion expressed
generously and affectionately his sense of obligation to the Academy by
which he had been trained in his boyhood, and from which he had received
encouragement and support at the most critical period of his career, and
declared with characteristic frankness that he owed to it a debt of
gratitude which he never could repay.

To those, however, who know how loyal he was to the institution that he
loved so well it would seem that the debt was, indeed, fully paid. Few
men have done more to uphold the repute of the Academy, few have by the
brilliancy of their powers and their charm of personality done it more
credit. That Leighton was the ideal President can be readily admitted,
but Millais, as his successor, would have carried on a great tradition
with dignity and sympathy and with no diminution of his predecessor's
generous tolerance and earnest sense of artistic responsibility. He
would have kept the Academy on broad lines, and by his impatience of
empty formalities he would have prevented it from losing touch with
the movements in modern art.

[Illustration: PLATE VIII.--THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE (Tate Gallery)

Even if the "North-West Passage" were not the masterly piece of painting
that it is, it would still be a picture of importance because it appeals
so vividly to the national spirit of adventure. The old Arctic explorer,
no longer able to satisfy his still strenuous inclinations, listens to
the record of his past activities which is being read to him by his
daughter, and yearns once more to battle with the hardships which must
be faced by the traveller in the frozen north. The old man's head, one
of the finest technical achievements in modern art, was painted from
Trelawny, the friend of Byron, and Shelley.]

But, unfortunately, he was destined to hold his honourable office for
but a brief time. Even before Leighton's death he had been suffering
from a throat trouble which not long after was pronounced to be cancer;
and in the months that followed immediately on his election the disease
made rapid progress. Not long after the opening of the 1896 Academy
Exhibition his condition became so serious that an immediately fatal
result was expected; but by an operation he obtained some temporary
relief and his life was prolonged for a few weeks. This, however, was
only a brief respite; he died on August 13, and was buried a week later
in St. Paul's Cathedral, where little more than six months before he
had followed his old friend's body to the grave.

To speak of his death as premature would be scarcely a misapplication of
the word. Although Millais had completed his sixty-seventh year he was
still in art a young man. His vigour had not waned, and there was no
perceptible diminution of his artistic vitality even in those last works
which he painted under the shadow of nearly impending death. To a man of
his splendid physique and buoyant temperament age would have come
slowly, and the inevitable degeneration of his powers would have not
begun for many more years. The possibility of great achievement remained
to him, and it would be true to say that his death robbed us of much
which would have added greatly to the sum total of British art. Yet we
may be grateful to fate for allowing him to develop the promise of his
youth in the splendour of his maturer years; it is so often the lot of
the precocious genius to die young with his mission but half fulfilled.
If death had come to Millais as it did to Bonington or Fred Walker, our
loss would have been sad indeed.

In discussing Millais as an artist the part which his personality played
in making him what he was must by no means be overlooked. Something of
the vitality and the virility of his art was due to the way in which he
kept touch with the life about him, and interested himself in people and
things. He was no recluse who fed in secret upon his own ideas, or
narrowed his outlook by hedging himself round with prejudices and
preferences for one special class of artistic material. Instead, he went
out into the world and acquired his impressions of humanity in all
directions and at first hand, finding much pleasure in association with
his fellow-men. To his own human nature he gave free rein; he was a keen
sportsman, a lover of children--of whose ways he had, as he proved in
scores of pictures, a perfect understanding--and a man who was always
happy in congenial society, and always welcome. He lived his life, in
fact, largely, genially, and wholesomely, and he was as much unspoiled
by the prosperity which came to him in his maturer years as he was
unshaken by the opposition which he had to face in that brief period of
his youth when, as he used to say himself, he was "so dreadfully
bullied."

That this brief taste of unpopularity did him good rather than harm can
well be imagined, for without making him bitter it tested with some
severity his tenacity and his power to fight vigorously for what he
believed to be right--and such a test has always its value as a means of
developing the finer qualities of a strong man, or as a warning to the
weak one of the need for self-examination. Millais did not require any
incentive to self-examination, because he knew well enough what he
intended to do when he deliberately set up his own conviction against
that of the men who practically ruled British art, and he did not enter
upon the fight with any idea of backing out if he found it was likely
to go against him. But after the kind of triumphal progress which he
made through the Academy schools, the discovery that the wider public
was not disposed to accept him as infallible was possibly necessary to
prove to him that successes as a student did not give him, as a matter
of course, an assured place among the chiefs of his profession. He was
taught roughly, and in a way that roused both his fighting spirit and
his pride, that this position was to be won only by sustained and
strenuous effort; and this lesson he never forgot. Its effects persisted
long after he had become a popular favourite, and they helped, it can be
fairly believed, to strengthen his character and to keep him from that
easy contentment with his own works which is the first step towards
degeneration. He did not degenerate after he had secured what he had
been striving for; although he had silenced his critics, and had won
them over to his side, he continued to sit in severest judgment upon
himself, and to the last he exacted from his own capacities the utmost
they could give him.


The plates are printed by BEMROSE & SONS, LTD., Derby and London

The text at the BALLANTYNE PRESS, Edinburgh





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