Sir John Everett Millais
Born: Southampton, United Kingdom
“It doesn’t matter how beautifully a thing is painted, it is no good if it isn’t right – it’s got to come out… What does it matter how you do it? Paint it with a shovel if you can’t get your effect any other way.”
―Sir John Everett Millais
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John Everett Millais was born into a wealthy family, allowing him to study art with the period’s top artists. Although he started painting in the Raphaelite style, he eventually became one of the most influential artists of the Impressionist movement. Known as a prodigy, John Everett Millais began experimenting with painting and the arts at a young age. Born into a wealthy and well-known family, Millais had the chance to study with some of the best artists of his time. While attending the Royal Academy, his work was often unfavorably critiqued by older teachers and students. After graduating from the program five years later, he began painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style. Although he worked closely with other artists and helped found a movement, he never had any close friends because he often obsessed about what others thought of his work. He married Effie Gray, who had sat for him as a model, and had eight children with her.
Millais often looked to poems and stories for inspiration. In 1849, he exhibited Isabella, one of his most famous pieces, at the Royal Academy. Based on a poem by John Keats, the painting was likened to a canvas from the Renaissance era. Known for drawing inspiration from the work of William Shakespeare, Millais created several paintings after reading the plays, including Ferdin and Lured by Ariel. While still a young man, Millais explored other types of paintings, and after showing his piece The Woodsman’s Daughter, the Royal Academy officially named him an associate. Millais worked closely with John Ruskin, painting several portraits of the art critic and his wife Effie. Over the course of the couple sitting for those paintings, Millais formed a close relationship with Effie, which eventually led to her divorce from her husband. While still working for the couple, Millais painted Autumn Leaves. Featuring several young girls as models, the painting’s dark theme was the fading of beauty. In his later years, Millais drew anger from critics and fans of his work. Bored with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, he began to create paintings and illustrations in the Impressionist style, but Impressionism was still in the early stages and many people disliked this newer style. Millais continued painting and became the president of the Royal Academy a few months before his death.