Monday, September 15, 2008

Millais Self-Portrait

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John Everett Millais painted this self-portrait when he was just 18 years old. He had already been a member of the Royal Academy of Art Schools for 7 years, having been admitted at the age of 11 (he remains the youngest person ever admitted to the Schools).

Millais' self-portrait was painted just two years before he helped found the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but the style of the painting seems light years away from the fine detail evident in Lorenzo and Isabella. I have to admit that if I didn't know who had painted this portrait, I would have had a hard time guessing who it was! Perhaps Millais was experimenting with new techniques when he created this portrait, because the brushwork seems much for "sloshy" than in his later work--or even than in his earlier work.

Tomorrow: a story from Millais' youth, and a closer look at one of his earliest masterpieces, Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru.

image courtesy of Tate Gallery

10 comments:

A World Away said...

Hi Margaret, I really like this portrait. I love the way Millais is peeking in.
Re Memes: Hey tag your it... if you want.
I hope the post on Mukkaering(To Mukka)was not too corny for you. No, no exotic locales,they have them at Safeway in Calgary and for half off, about 50 bucks, so you may want to check out your local Safeway in Edmonton.

Melanie said...

I wonder if it wasn't something to do with how his tutor told him to paint? The RA I think had some quite narrow boundaries and thoughts. Perhaps the thought was "Do a self portrait in the style of..."? There is something engaging about his face.

Margaret said...

Thanks for the tip, Stephen! I'm not sure if I've ever seen one at our Safeway though--Safeway in Edmonton must be less cosmopolitan than in Calgary!

--Melanie, I agree with you about he portrait. It definitely looks like it was meant to be in the style of another artist.

willow said...

At the age of 11?! Incredible!! I'm looking forward to more on Millais. ;^)

steviewren said...

I like the portrait, even though it is not in Millais' style. It seems to have depth and mystery. It catches my interest and makes me want to know more about him.

Judy said...

You are right, Margaret...this could have been done by Reynolds himself...or rather by Reynolds emulating Rembrandt. As already mentioned by Melanie a student at the Royal Academy Millais was set to copy from the old masters at the National Gallery and Dulwich.

However my Millais catalogue says that the first Rembrandt self-portrait was not acquired by the NGL until 1851 so he wasn't copying one of those I guess.

M.Kate said...

wow..what a captivating potrait. tks for the infor and education too.

Margaret said...

--I agree, Steviewren, there's definitely some real depth to the painting. I love his blue velvet jacket! He looks like quite the little gentleman artist!
--Yeah, Judy, I almost thought of mentioning Reynolds, and then I thought it was just too cruel (what would Millais say?). Seriously though, it definitley has a Rembrandt quality, even if they didn't have a Rembrandt at the Royal Academy Schools until later. I'm sure they had etchings to work from.

boba said...

Interesting change in the profile. The other work you reference, all the figures are in full profile. This work places places him on the 3/4 view. My sister and brethren art historians would refer to the gaze, and how the viewer is engaged.
I being a meandering marxist would point out the clothing is not something I would paint in, and that his hair is neatly combed, and appears well fed. The chair is appears to be rather nice, and he is comfortable. Hardly the starving artist, eh? Such are the advantages of being in the Royal Academy. It would be interesting to know something of the patron who introduced him.
The Rembrandt comment may be close to the mark. Although the gaze in this work is more direct, the graduated background with unrestrained brushstrokes are similar.

Thorsprincess said...

But the brushwork and colors do look more like Millais' work than any of the other brothers. Millais was already a well-established member of the Academy at age eighteen. Millais does lay paint on in other paintings (Mariana) and the fine lighting and detail of the face with the murky textures seems more current because this is a contemporary portrait--not a pre-Raphaelite style of work. Academy members would be practised in many techniques and styles. It seems to me that Millais is just not placing himself in the historical mode of the brotherhood's paintings, but as a serious artist of his own time. Confirms him as one of my favorites.