The Pre-Raphaelite Children of John Everett Millais Research Paper by mikkenzi

The Pre-Raphaelite Children of John Everett Millais
A study of pre-Raphaelite children in John Everett Millais' paintings.
# 103301 | 5,250 words | 16 sources | MLA | 2008 | FR
Published on May 01, 2008 in Art (Artists) , Art (History) , Art (Painting) , Art (Fine Art)

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This paper analyzes the representation of children in John Everett Millais' paintings. It presents and analyzes 33 paintings, completed from 1840 to 1896, the year of the painter's death. Photographs of some of the paintings are included in the text. The paper points out that Millais was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB), a group of English painters, poets, and critics. The paper attempts to demonstrate that the Pre-Raphaelitism of Millais is very particular in the sense that it uses the PRB's techniques, but concentrates on a subject that was not explored as extensively by the other artists of the Brotherhood, namely, children and childhood. The first part of the paper seeks to demonstrate that Millais strove to blend the aesthetics of the PRB with subject-matter that he felt was closer to the everyday popular concerns of the times. In addition, his reiteration of the Pre-Raphaelite preoccupations, techniques and devices has the lightness of manner and properties of a musical leitmotif, rather than the urgency and insistence of an unconditional engagement. Secondly, the paper concentrates on the cleavage between the representation of children in distress and children within the family unit, and briefly comments on the spirituality of the child according to Millais. Finally, the paper examines the portrayal of girls throughout Millais' career. The paper concludes that, thematically, children and childhood seem to define Millais best.

From the Paper:

"The plot of The Rescue (1855) is mostly about protection and shelter, or rather, the lack of it. Millais plays with the colours and shades to create a general feeling of helplessness. The feeling of insecurity is heightened when we look at the figures of the three children trapped between the flames in the left-hand corner and the blackness and unhealthy mist of the London night in the right-hand corner of the painting. The figure of the fire-fighter as a temporary pillar of refuge echoes the blackness of the night outside, while the fragile whiteness of the figure of the mother is contrasted to the intense yellow-reddish flames, reflected on the face and feet of the boy. The painting stages a scene of distress and suggests future misery. Widely approved as celebrating "the bravery of the London Fire Brigade" (Adams 120), the painting contains the essence of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which consists in a peculiar feeling of insecurity as to its real meaning. The spectator constantly hesitates between the two diverging interpretations. This is frequently due to the technical imperfections of many PRB paintings (a famous example is Lorenzo and Isabella but also Sir Isumbras at the Ford as we shall see further) but it has also become their special mark. It is difficult to say to what extent the instability generated is deliberate, especially in the case of Millais who was far from being a mediocre artist after all."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Adams, Steven, The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites, London: Quantum Books, 1997.
  • Brooke, Anthea, Victorian Painting. Catalogue for Exhibition November - December 1977, London: Fine Art Society, 1977.
  • Bullen, J. B., The Pre-Raphaelite Body: Fear and Desire in Painting, Poetry, and Criticism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
  • Forty, Sandra, The Pre-Raphaelites, Grange Books PLC, 1995.
  • Hares-Stryker, Carolyn. An Anthology of Pre-Raphaelite Writings. Washington Square: New York University Press, 1997.

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