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---------------------------------------- MILLAIS Tate Britain, London 26 September 2007-13 January 2008 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam 15 February-18 May 2008 Municipal Museum of Art, Kitakyushu 7 June-17 August 2008 Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo 30 August-26 October 2008 Reviewed for H-Museum by Prof. Dr. Antoine Capet, University of Rouen E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Past visitors of the Tate Gallery, as it was then known, will be familiar with the archetypal Millais which seems to be on permanent display, _Ophelia_, "the most popular painting at Tate Britain". Indeed, such is the association between Millais, _Ophelia_ and the Tate that this painting provides the cover photograph for the useful booklet given to visitors, for the Press pack and also for the accompanying catalogue --besides forming the background to the Exhibition poster. Naturally, there is more to Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896) than _Ophelia_ (1851), and Tate Britain has organized a long-awaited retrospective, the first since 1967 (at the Royal Academy) and, the Press release indicates, "the first exhibition since 1898 to examine the entirety of the artist's career"--notably because it includes a large group of his late Scottish landscapes. It is naturally impossible to discuss here all the 140 paintings and works on paper which are featured, but the exemplary website pages devoted to the Exhibition give illustrations of all the major works displayed, with excellent explanatory notes. Not unexpectedly, the first room concentrates on Pre-Raphaelitism, since the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in John Millais's parents’ house in 1848. Among the other future celebrities present were William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. If Pre-Raphaelitism can best be described in opposition to Academicism or, as the Minneapolis Institute of Arts defines it on its website, a "style which advocated a return to serious subjects and naturalistic representation, and emphasized accuracy of detail and color", then the precocious work of Millais did not adumbrate his future Pre-Raphaelite militancy. The Exhibition has a magnificently Academic _Pizarro seizing the Inca of Peru_ (1846)--admittedly painted when he was only sixteen. Technically, the first painting to be explicitly presented in the context of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was _Isabella_ (1848–9). Together with _Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop)_ (1849-50), these paintings established Millais's reputation as a _provocateur_, the former because of its overt rejection of Academicism, the latter for reasons which ring all sorts of familiar bells today. The more bigoted Protestants saw the scene as having inacceptable Roman Catholic tendencies and the general religiosity of the time was averse to realistic depiction of Jesus Christ. With _The Eve of St Agnes_ (1850) and _Mariana_ (1850-1), Millais deliberately infringed the conventions of the time by associating erotic desire with "respectable women". The superb contemporary portraits shown (_Portrait of a Gentleman and his Grandchild (James Wyatt and his Granddaughter, Mary Wyatt)_, 1849; _Mrs James Wyatt Jr and her Daughter Sarah_, 1850; _Thomas Combe_, 1850) apparently did little to compensate for the scandalous nature of his other works--and yet, paradoxically, the Royal Academy never refused to exhibit them. Room 2, on "Romance and Modern Genre" is largely devoted to his next field of exploration, that of figure painting with a historical dimension, often depicting the conflict between love and patriotic or religious duty. We thus have _A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day, refusing to shield himself from Danger by wearing the Roman Catholic Badge_ (1851-2, on the massacre of French Protestants by Roman Catholic mobs on 24 August 1572); _ The Order of Release, 1746_ (1852-3, on the last Jacobite Rebellion); _The Proscribed Royalist, 1651_ (1852-3, on the English Civil War); _ Peace Concluded, 1856_ (1856, on the ending of the Crimean War); _The Escape of a Heretic, 1559_ (1857, on the Spanish Holy Inquisition); _The Black Brunswicker_ (1859-60, on the Battle of Waterloo). Only six years separate _ The Order of Release, 1746_ from _Pizarro seizing the Inca of Peru_, and yet these two “historical scenes” are light-years apart--or so they appear to be to the non-specialist of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Room 2 also contains the well known picture of _The Blind Girl_ (1854-6), in all its glorious colour (the girl’s red hair!), impossible to render even with the best modern techniques of reproduction. Then the visitor moves on to the smaller Room 3, whose central theme is Aestheticism. The curators (Alison Smith, Curator at Tate Britain, and Jason Rosenfeld, Associate Professor at Marymount Manhattan College, New York) explain their choice of this term in a very convincing wall text. Millais’s evolution is perfectly encapsulated in the difference which one perceives between _Spring_ (1856-9), with its arguably archetypal characteristics of Pre-Raphaelitism, and _The Vale of Rest (Where the weary find repose)_ (1858). We are therefore not surprised to see the continuation of this evolution towards "The Grand Tradition" in the next room, with classical Biblical subjects (and also with a tendency to classical treatment?) like _Esther_ (1863-5) or _Jephthah_ (1867). Fortunately, the curators provide their modern de-Christianised visitors with the essential information on these Old Testament subjects--but few members of the public seemed to be interested. In contrast, the two assassinated sons of Edward IV in _The Princes in the Tower_ (1878) continue to speak to the crowds (it was hardly possible to approach some of the pictures, let alone the captions, when I was there--this is of course the ambivalent ransom of success for all museum authorities). The patriotic scenes, _ The Boyhood of Raleigh_ (1869-70) and _ The North-West Passage_ (1874), do not arouse the same enthusiasm as when they were first exhibited. We must bear the Imperial context in mind: Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India in 1877 as the culmination of Disraeli’s efforts to revive interest in the Empire, largely neglected by his Liberal rivals. Few visitors today will look at these pictures with the Imperial pride which they both assumed and enhanced. That the former young rebels of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood now appeared as supporters of the Conservative Imperial dream was of course highly ironical. As a total contrast to his "Imperialist" pictures, Millais produced the "Fancy Pictures" of Room 5. A wall text conveniently explains what the phrase means in art history: "The 'fancy picture' first came into existence during the eighteenth century and can be described as genre painting where the sentiment takes precedence over evolved narrative". The archetypal work in this category is the celebrated _Bubbles_ (1886). The original was not often seen until recently, but it is now on long loan to the Lady Lever Art Gallery, whose website usefully retraces the history of the painting, indirectly explaining why Millais was blamed for his commercialism (one more inexcusable sin for the idealists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of his young days): _Bubbles_ will be forever linked with washing and cleanliness because it was used to advertise Pears' soap. Owners of the painting Unilever has granted the Lady Lever a long-term loan. In many people’s minds the painting is also associated with the song _I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles_, anthem of Cup Finalists West Ham FC since the 1920s when the song was a hit. Painted by Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir John Everett Millais in 1886 and his best-known work, _Bubbles_ was originally called _A Child’s World_. It shows the artist’s grandson William James dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy-style velvet costume with a ruffled collar. The painting was bought by A & F Pears and the managing director, Thomas Barrett, turned it into an advertisement by adding a bar of soap in the foreground. It was a brilliant masterstroke and the painting is today still associated with the product. Lever Brothers acquired A & F Pears in 1914 and subsequently the company became part of the Unilever Group. Pears was retained as a separate brand and Unilever kept _Bubbles_ at its global headquarters on the banks of the Thames. Entering the impressively large Room 6, one is immediately fascinated by the reconstruction of Millais’s studio, including the actual 18th c. arm chair used by his wealthy sitters and his large studio easel (his palette, brushes and oils are also on display). This is the room devoted to the "Portraits" which made him a very rich man--and one understands why when one sees that it features two Prime Ministers (_The Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, MP_, 1878-9 and _ Benjamin Disraeli, The Earl of Beaconsfield, KG_, 1881), a banker's daughter and marchioness (_The Marchioness of Huntly_, 1870), a banker’s wife (_Mrs. Bischoffsheim_, 1872-3), a fashionable actor (_Henry Irving, Esq_, 1883), a future successful actress (_A Jersey Lily_ [Lillie Langtry], 1877-8) and two famous authors (_Thomas Carlyle_, 1877 and _ Alfred Tennyson_, 1881) besides his self-portrait (_Portrait of the Painter_, 1880, commissioned by the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, to be hung in its Collezione degli Autoritratti next to Velázquez, Bernini and Dürer) and those of his wife and some of his children. Few people must have seen the originals of the twelve paintings of the Highlands of Perthshire which form the theme of the final room, "The Late Landscapes", because they are widely dispersed. If _Scotch Firs: 'The silence that is in the lonely woods'_ (1873, a quotation from Wordsworth) arguably reminds the viewer of Millais's Pre-Raphaelite manner, the caption of _ ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind'_ (1892, a quotation from _As You Like It_) informs us that it is “one of the artist's rare paintings dealing with contemporary social ills" (a man abandoning his family). And when the caption of the stupendously gorgeous large painting, _The Sound of Many Waters_ (1876) tells us that “in this mature work he effectively conveyed the features of volcanic rock without the meticulousness of Pre-Raphaelitism", we wonder what the result would have been if he had displayed "the meticulousness of Pre-Raphaelitism". The free visitor's booklet has a map of the locations (near the River Tay) where these landscapes were painted--an excellent idea. Subscribers who can visit the Exhibition in London, Amsterdam, Kitakyushu or Tokyo are unreservedly encouraged to do so. Those who cannot should not fail to go to the dedicated website. A symposium supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art on "Millais, Hunt and Modern Life" will take place on Friday 30 November (10.00-19.00), with a private view with drinks for participants on Thursday 29 November (19.00-21.30). Notes:  Rosenfeld, Jason & Smith, Alison. _Millais_. London : Tate, 2007. 272 pp. ISBN: 1854376675 (pbk.); 1854377469 (hbk.).  http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/millais/default.shtm  National Museums Liverpool, Lady Lever Art Gallery website : http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mediacentre/displayrelease.aspx?id=544  Details on : http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/eventseducation/symposia/11234.htm ===================== Tate Britain Millbank London SW1P 4RG E-mail: email@example.com Switchboard : 020 7887 8000 (international +44 20 7887 8000) Recorded information : 020 7887 8008 (international +44 20 7887 8008) Millais tickets : 020 7887 8888 (international +44 20 7887 8888) Exhibition Hours : Daily, 10.00-17.50 (last admission 17.00) Admission £11 (£10 seniors, £9 concessions) www.tate.org.uk -- H-MUSEUM H-Net Network for Museums and Museum Studies E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org WWW: http://www.h-museum.net