Who Are They?

Who is John Everett Millais?

Meet John Everett Millais. Find out about the famous Ophelia and what secret society he was a part of

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, ‘Ophelia’ 1851–2
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
Ophelia 1851–2
Tate

Did you know this guy was a member of a secret society? They were called the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

They were a group of artists who wanted to change art in Britain.

In the mid-1800s if you wanted to become a successful artist, you needed to belong to the Royal Academy of Art. They decided who was a good artist and who was not. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood thought this was a bit rubbish.

They didn’t like the paintings by the artists of the Royal Academy. They wanted to paint pictures of religious subjects, legends and myths in a style that reminded people of medieval painters.

The painting abouve is called Ophelia, and is one of the most popular paintings in the Tate Collection. The model for Ophelia was an artist called Elizabeth Siddal. She had to lie in a bath of water with candles burning underneath to keep her warm, so that Millais could make an accurate picture of a drowned woman.

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, ‘Christ in the House of His Parents (‘The Carpenter’s Shop’)’ 1849–50
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
Christ in the House of His Parents (‘The Carpenter’s Shop’) 1849–50
Tate

The painting above is called Christ in the House of his Parents, and caused a scandal when it was exhibited in 1850.

The novelist Charles Dickens hated it so much he called it ‘mean, odious, revolting and repulsive’.

But why?

Well people didn’t like that Jesus and his family looked like they were poor, everyday people. They thought Jesus, Mary and Joseph were special, and should always be painted that way.

The painting also tells us about Jesus’ future. Can you see that the little boy has cut his hand? Joseph is looking at the cut, which is bleeding. It is supposed to remind us that Jesus had his hands nailed to the cross when he was crucified.

Sir Thomas Brock, Sir John Everett Millais 1904 c. Tate

Sir Thomas Brock, Sir John Everett Millais 1904 c. Tate

Millais became a very successful painter in his lifetime. There is even a statue to him outside Tate Britain! Go and visit him, next time you come to the gallery!

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