May 20, 2008

John Everett Millais

Millais' most famous picture, Ophelia, is burned into my brain. However, my knowledge of Millais' other works were a bit sketchy. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam had a large showing of his work that made me a huge fan. Millais' early mystical Pre-Raphellite paintings are preceded by earlier paintings like, The Artist Attending the Mourning of a Young Girl. This early work hooked me at the start of the exhibition.

John Everett Millais
The Artist Attending the Mourning of a Young Girl
about 1847, Oil on board

An inscription from the picture’s back described this scene: ‘The painting represents an incident in Millais’s own life when he was sent for by people unknown to him, but who knew him to be a young artist, to draw a portrait of a girl in her coffin before her burial. The scene moved him so much that when he got home he made this sketch showing himself being asked to draw the girl’s portrait.’

Other later pieces that stood out were...

John Everett Millais
The Rescue 1855, Oil on canvas

The glazes of red in this painting are super intense (not like this jpeg) and almost feel like a photoshop technique when seen in person...this glazing is totally crazy in its' ability to suggest 'fire space' versus 'non-fire space' within the composition....."Inspired by a brewery fire Millais witnessed, and a rare painting of physical action, this scene of modern life shows a fireman carrying three small children he has saved from a blaze, the youngest of whom he delivers into the embrace of their anxious mother. Ruskin praised The Rescue, writing ‘it is the only great picture exhibited this year’, clearly impressed by this novel scene of nocturnal heroism."

Lastly, I wanted to mention an amazing drawing called Awful Protection Against Midges 1853 (Pen and brown ink on laid paper)...it is a drawing of the artist and a friend sketching plein air while midge insects swarm around them. They smoke cigarettes as a repellent and wear hoods to protect themselves from the biting bugs.


This exhibit came from the Tate London to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and the link attached to this post's title enables you to view the exhibit room by room as it was presented in London.

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