13 thoughts on “The contradictions of 19th century British painter John Everett Millais

  1. 2008-08-13 15:45

    Vasto fetes Dante Rossetti’s family

    Pre- Raphaelite painter’s family hailed from Abruzzo town

    (ANSA) – Vasto, August 13 – The seaside Abruzzo town of Vasto is celebrating the family of one its most famous exiles, Gabriele Rossetti, whose English-born offspring caused a stir in London’s 19th-century art and literature circles.

    Commemorating 180 years since the birth of Gabriele’s most famous son, Dante Gabriel, the seaside town is hosting an exhibition of books, documents, photographs and art exploring the life and work of the Rossetti family. The centrepiece of the show will be a valuable painting on loan from London by Dante Gabriel, co-founder of the romantic Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with its love of all things medieval. Beata Beatrix, normally held in the Tate Britain, depicts the artist’s wife Elizabeth Siddal as Dante Alighieri’s muse Beatrice.

    Completed between 1864 and 1870, it was part of a cycle of paintings by Dante Gabriel illustrating the Italian poet’s La Vita Nuova, and shows Beatrice at the moment of her death. The painting is seen as a tribute to Siddal, who died of a laudanum overdose in 1862. However, the exhibition, which opens on August 14, explores the talents of the entire Rossetti family. Born in Vasto in 1783, Gabriele Rossetti was forced to flee Vasto at the age of 38 as a result of his support for revolutionary Italian nationalism.

    He settled in London three years later, where he became Professor of Italian at King’s College and married Frances Polidori, with whom he had four children. Maria Francesca Rossetti (1827-1876) was the eldest, and became an author and later an Anglican nun.

    Dante Gabriele (1828-1882) was born next. Although named Gabriel Charles Dante, he called himself Dante in honour of Dante Alighieri.

    He studied poetry and later published translations of various medieval Italian poets but is today best known for his artwork, particularly his contribution to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) was also heavily involved in the movement, editing its magazine and penning its founding principles. After Dante Gabriele, Christina (1830-1894) was the Rossetti to gain most recognition for her work.

    Hailed as the ”next female laureate” after the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, she wrote a variety of religious and children’s poems. Today, she is best known for her long poem Goblin Market. Illustrated by Dante Gabriele, it tells of two close sisters tempted by goblins to buy strange fruit.

    The exhibition, curated by Pre-Raphaelite expert and biographer, Jan Marsh, features 30 artworks on loan from the US and the UK, as well as an array of original documents.

    It runs in from August 14 until November 16.


  2. Ravenna celebrates Pre-Raphaelites

    Show is Italy’s first ever on influential British movement

    10 March, 18:54

    Ravenna celebrates Pre-Raphaelites (ANSA) – Ravenna, March 10 – The impact of Italian art on Britain’s influential 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite movement is explored in a new exhibition in the coastal town of Ravenna.

    The event is Italy’s first ever on the movement as a whole and aims to provide the Italian public with an overview of their work. Founded in the second half of the 1800s by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelites sought to break with artistic convention of the day.

    They called for a revival of spontaneity and passion for nature, which they believed had been lost during the Mannerist revolution sparked by Raphael. The Pre-Raphaelites were particularly fascinated by the brilliant colours, attention to natural detail, extreme simplicity and intensity of expression in Italian medieval art. Italian art, landscapes and history played a critical role in their efforts to encourage British painting in a more personal and emotional direction. During its early years, the movement focused on medieval and pre-Renaissance styles but by the end of the 1850s, Pre-Raphaelite interest had expanded to include 15th-century paintings, particularly the work of Venetian artists.

    In addition to the fascination with Italian art, the Pre-Raphaelites were also drawn by its literature.

    Rossetti, the son of an Italian scholar who settled in London, was particularly inspired by Dante’s writings and completed a series of exquisite watercolours and paintings illustrating key episodes of the Divine Comedy. The exhibition features numerous loans from British and US museums and private collections, including a string of works from the famous collection of Pre-Raphaelite works at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. These are offset by a number of the original Italian masterpieces that inspired the movement, among which works by Fra Angelico, Perugino and various other 15th-century artists.

    One particularly interesting section spotlights a series of mosaics in Rome’s American church, St Paul within the Walls, completed by Edward Burne-Jones in 1850. A series of preparatory sketches and designs for the project, rarely displayed publicly, are also on show. The exhibition runs at the Ravenna Museum of Art until June 6, and then at the Ashmolean Museum from September 15 until December.


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  5. Great article! I find that Millais had a very interesting life and a strange evolution to his painting. I guess one could say that about all the Pre-Raphaelites though, ha ha ha. And thank you very much for including my post under “Related Articles.” 🙂 Best regards, G. E.


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