John Everett Millais Biography


Birthday: June 8, 1829 (Gemini)

Born In: Southampton, Hampshire, England

John Everett Millais was a British painter and illustrator who was also the most famous advocate of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood style of painting. He was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His painting, Ophelia (1851), is one of the best examples of this style of painting. His paintings, especially his early ones, were rich in detail and focused on the realistic portrayal of the subject. His Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood managed to prove to people that Raphael was not the only way of depicting reality. While Raphael’s style believed in depicting perfection and was far away from reality, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood believed in depicting life as it is, with all its imperfections. The Brotherhood was initially criticized but with the help of Ruskin, their work slowly became popular. John Everett Millais paintings not only earned him fame but also money. Later in his career, his work was criticized but, in the end, he proved to be one of the best artists of the Victorian era.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In June

Also Known As: Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet

Died At Age: 67


Spouse/Ex-: Effie Gray

father: John William Millais

mother: Emily Mary Hodgkinson Millais

children: Alice Sophia Caroline Millais, George Gray Millais, John Guille Millais, Mary Hunt Millais, Sir Everett Millais - 2nd Baronet, Sir Geoffrey William Millais - 4th Bt.

Born Country: England

British Men British Artists & Painters

Died on: August 13, 1896

place of death: Kensington, London, England

Cause of Death: Throat Cancer

More Facts

education: Royal Academy Of Arts

Childhood & Early Life

John Everett Millais was born on June 8, 1829, in Southampton, England. His parents, John William Millais and Emily Mary Millais were well known in Southampton and Jersey, which is where he spent his early childhood. He developed a strong bond with Jersey and maintained it till the end.

His father was a well to do man from Jersey, while his mother belonged to a family of saddlers who owned a lot of properties.

Early on his parents noticed his strong artistic talent and soon realized that he was a child prodigy. His mother, who was a strong-willed woman, believed in her son’s extraordinary talent and decided to move to London in 1838 to help improve his artistic talent.

John Everett Millais first enrolled at the Sass’s Art School to hone his drawing talent. At the tender age of 9, he received a silver medal for his work from the Society of Law.

At the age of eleven, he was able to secure a place in the prestigious Royal Academy School of London in 1840. In fact, at that time he was the youngest student ever to enroll at the Royal Academy School.

He soon proved his talent by winning all the gold and silver academy prizes.

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John Everett Millais’ career as a painter began while he was studying at the Royal Academy. His work soon gained prominence and he held his first exhibition in 1846 at the Royal Academy. ‘Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru’ was the painting that he exhibited here.

In 1847, John Everett Millais won a gold medal at the Royal Academy for the painting titled, ‘The Tribe of Benjamin Seizing the Daughters of Shiloh’.

The year 1848 marked a turning point in his career when he, along with William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The ‘Isabella’ painting, which was exhibited in 1849 at the Royal Academy, is one of the best examples of Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood style. This was his first painting under the new style.

In 1850, he exhibited the ‘Christ in the House of his Parents’ painting. The painting was severely criticized and some even called it blasphemous. The painting showed the young Christ in a realistic working class home.

In 1851, he gained success with his painting titled, ‘A Huguenot,’ which is a realistic portrayal of a young couple who are on the verge of being separated due to some religious conflict. Next came his famous painting, ‘Ophelia,’ in which he paid great attention to the details and natural setting of the subject.

‘The Return of the Dove to the Ark’ (1851) won him critical acclaim and was praised by no other than John Ruskin, the English essayist, and Theophile Gautier, the French author.

His painting, ‘The Order of Release’ (1853) not only made him more popular but also earned him the position of Associate in the Royal Academy.

He settled in Perth, Scotland, after marriage and there he painted ‘Autumn Leaves’ in 1855. This was followed by ‘The Blind Girl’ (1856), which is touted as one of his best works.

His marriage and growing family led to a change in his style of painting. He let go of religious and moral themes and instead began doing paintings that tailored to the public demands.

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At the beginning of 1855, he began to do illustrations for various publications. His illustrations of Tennyson’s poems for the Moxon edition in 1857 clearly illustrate his changing style and theme of his paintings.

In 1859, he did numerous illustrations for Trollope’s novels and a magazine called ‘Once a Week.’

In 1861, he shifted base to London and began painting child subjects. One such painting titled, ‘Bubbles,’ was used in Pears soap advertisements and became very popular. He was criticized for doing this by no other than William Morris, who was a former admirer of his work.

In 1863, his position in the Royal Academy was sealed when he was made a full member of the Royal Academy.

During this time, John Everett Millais also became famous for doing portraits of beautiful young ladies. Some of his famous portraits included Thomas Carlyle (1877), Gladstone (1879 and 1885), and Tennyson (1881).

He is also known for doing pure landscapes. The ‘Chill October’ (1870), which is also set in Perth, shows his eye for details.

Though he was criticized for doing paintings and illustrations for monetary gains, it was understandable since he had a large family to take care of. He did become one of the richest painters of his time.

Major Works

‘Christ in the House of his Parents’ not only brought him into prominence but is also a fine example of his Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

‘Ophelia’ is one of his most famous paintings and showcases his talent in painting realistic settings.

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‘A Huguenot’ (1851-52), which portrays a couple being separated due to religious conflict, showcases the true artistic talent of John Everett Millais.

Honours & Recognitions

In 1882, John Everett Millais became the President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Arts.

In 1885, he became the first painter to be given a Hereditary Title.

He was made Baronet of Palace Gate by Queen Victoria of England.

In 1896, he was elected the President of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Family & Personal Life

In 1855, John Everett Millais married Euphemia Chalmers Gray. The marriage created quite a storm because Euphemia was married to John Ruskin, the famous English essayist and admirer of Millais’ work.

It is said that Euphemia was not happy in the marriage when she began an affair with John Everett Millais. Their affair started when Millais was vacationing in Scotland with Ruskin’s. She divorced Ruskin and married Millais. Ruskin, who was earlier a supporter of Millais’ paintings, soon turned his most vocal critic.

After marriage, they moved to Perth, Scotland, and went on to have eight children.

He died in 1896 due to throat cancer. He is buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

See the events in life of John Everett Millais in Chronological Order

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