Press Release

Major late landscape by Millais, Dew-Drenched Furze, donated to Tate

Tate is delighted to announce that John Everett Millais’s Dew-Drenched Furze 1890, widely regarded as one of the great achievements of his later art, will be donated to Tate by one of the artist’s great grandsons, Geoffroy Millais. The painting will significantly enhance Tate’s representation of the artist’s highly acclaimed later landscapes. The gift also represents an important acknowledgment of Millais’s friendship with Sir Henry Tate.  It will go on show at Tate Britain as part of the BP British Art Displays on 11 March 2009 to mark the 190th anniversary of Henry Tate’s birth.

Dew-Drenched Furze was painted on site on the Murthly estate in Perthshire, Scotland. Millais set out to capture the wintry morning sun streaming through a clearing of bedewed gorse, a subject he is said to have feared might be unpaintable. The eye is allowed to wander through a gap in a forest, along bracken, gorse and ferns laden with frost. The densely worked surface of the foliage emphasizes the uncharacteristic abstract qualities of the work and the title, a loose citation of Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1850), lends the painting an elegiac tone. Millais asked his son, the ornithological artist J.G. Millais, to paint from a live specimen, a cock pheasant in the right foreground. This was posthumously removed leaving just the nesting hen.

In the last twenty-six years of his life Millais painted twenty-one large-scale landscapes in Perthshire, Scotland, in the vicinity of Perth, Dunkeld, Murthly and Birnam. Each around six feet high or wide, was painted outdoors before the motif. He spent every year from August to January in the Highlands near his wife’s family, often working before extravagantly open vistas. Millais’s emotive response to the Highlands moved beyond the picturesque and the melancholy and he delighted instead in the intricacies of foliage, or the changing light and mood of the northern landscape in winter. The panoramic scope and deep distance of so many of these pictures would later have a marked influence on the work of Vincent van Gogh in the development of a modern, expressionistic landscape practice.

Dew-Drenched Furze was on loan to Tate between 1996 and 2000. It was included in Tate’s Symbolism in Britain exhibition in 1998 and most recently in the Millais exhibition in 2007. There are 60 works by Millais in Tate Collection. The only other late landscape in the Collection is The moon is up, and yet it is not night (also dated 1890).

Stephen Deuchar, Director Tate Britain said: “Tate is exceptionally grateful to Geoffroy Millais for the gift of Dew-Drenched Furze. This exquisite work is one of the finest examples of Millais’s late landscapes and will significantly enhance Tate’s holdings from this important period in his oeuvre. It is also fitting that the friendship between Millais and Sir Henry Tate is being marked by the display of the work at Tate Britain on this the 190th anniversary of Sir Henry’s birth.”

Geoffroy Millais said: “I am overjoyed that Dew-Drenched Furze has captured the imagination of so many and that it is a painting – and such a late one – that Tate should wish to have.  My late father’s determination in 1978 to acquire Dew-Drenched Furze has made possible the gift, and no-one will have wanted this more than the artist himself.”

John Everett Millais (1829- 1896) was the greatest painter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was the best known and most successful painter in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century, with a reputation across Europe and America.