Sir John Everett Millais, Bt

‘The Moon is Up, and Yet it is not Night’

1890

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1041 x 1689 mm
frame: 1410 x 2050 x 120 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mrs H.S. Neilson 1946
Reference
N05632

Summary

This large, oil landscape was one of three that Millais exhibited in 1890, the others being Dew-drenched Furze (Private Collection) and Lingering Autumn (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight) Apart from a few early attempts, Millais's landscapes were all produced late in his career, between 1870 and 1892, and were based upon the local Scottish scenery near his home in Bowerswell, Perthshire and the estate at Murthly that Millais rented from 1881 for the purposes of recreational shooting and fishing. Millais's decision to introduce a stag and a hind into the landscape, which are just visible in the semi-darkness, lends an evocative sub-text to the painting; the site for the composition was Cairnleith Little Bog on the Murthly estate which was a well-known refuge for hunted deer.

Millais frequently appended titles with a literary source to his landscapes, thereby adding an emotional dimension to the scenes he depicted. The title of this painting is from Canto IV of Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1818), in which Byron evokes the cities and landscapes of Italy:

The moon is up, and yet it is not night ;
Sunset divides the sky with her ; a sea
Of glory streams along the Alpine height
Of blue Friuli's mountains ;

The title and its source (which would have been recognised by the Victorian gallery-going public) endow the remote Highland setting with the atmosphere of an exotic and romantic locale.

Millais's landscapes were not universally liked among critics and a public which had grown used to the artist's figurative art and the portraits that dominated his late career. Although it was evident to the Art Journal that "The moon is up, and yet it is not night" displayed 'higher aspirations and more pathos than the master has often of late years exhibited in pure landscape', the critic had reservations. The fault in Millais's landscapes was felt to lie with the artist's Pre-Raphaelite roots which discouraged him from generalising: 'The drawback is still that he reproduces rather than he interprets nature' (Art Journal, 1890, p.218).

Further reading:
W. J. Eggeling, Millais and Dunkeld: The Story of Millais's Landscapes, [? Edinburgh], 1985, pp.13 and 15.
A.L. Baldry, Sir John Everett Millais, His Art and Influence, London 1899, pp.59, 82-3.

Rebecca Virag
March 2001

Display caption

Millais first achieved fame and success as a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He always maintained close links with the Royal Academy, however, and became an Academician in 1863. Great natural talent, personal charm and the status of being a Royal Academician brought prosperity. In 1881 he acquired the lease and shooting rights of an estate at Murthly, Perthshire. This picture was painted during one of Millais' last visits there. The scenery inspired three large, sombre landscapes which were all painted during 1890-1. The view here is of Carnleth little bog which was a favourite refuge for hunted deer. The title is a quotation from Lord Byron's poem 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'.

Gallery label, August 2004