Friday, September 28, 2007


A sumptuously mounted exhibition at Tate Britain; will probably be mobbed by fans of chocolate boxy Victorian art. After a short period of artistic rebellion in the Pre-Rahaelite movement Millais became the archetypal artistic sellout, licensing his work Bubbles for use in the Pear’s Soap adverts.
Actually I quite like Bubbles, and don’t really blame the man for making a few quid in the Art Business, especially after his unpleasant early experiences with his critical patron Ruskin, a relentless back-seat driver and moralist who went a bit gaga in the end.

I don’t really rate Millais’ stuff at all, apart from Ophelia, Marianna and one or two other pieces. He was skilled in handling paint, capturing textures and facial expression but a bit hopeless at large-scale compositions, which are usually weird and awkward. The portraits are by far his best work.

Millais scandalously eloped with Mrs John Ruskin, whose marriage to the Victorian Sage was unconsummated allegedly due to Mr Ruskin’s distaste of feminine public hair. Instead of booking herself in for a brazilian Mrs Ruskin eloped with the far more personable Millais. Her second marriage was far more successful, and the pair had vast quantities of children, most of whom were roped in for modelling by their doting papa. Queen Victoria never forgave Millais the scandal, and despite painting every Victorian worthy and C-list celeb he never painted her. The monarchy’s loss. Maybe this explains our present monarch’s mania for being painted by Lucien Freud, et all.

Tate Britain
26 September 2007 – 13 January 2008

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