John Everett Millais


John Everett Millais


Millais, John Everett (1829-1896), English painter




Omeka record contributed by Jenifer Norwalk

Date Submitted

November 19, 2016

Birth Date

June 8, 1829


Southampton, England

Death Date

August 13, 1896


Painter, illustrator

Biographical summary

A child prodigy, John Everett Millais was destined for the Victorian art world from a  young age. His family moved from Jersey to London when Millais was 9 years old to provide him with the necessary resources for a professional career as an artist and during this time he attended Henry Sass Academy, a school that prepared boys for entrance into the schools of the Royal Academy. In 1840 Millais became the youngest student ever admitted to the Royal Academy Schools at eleven years old. After his admittance into the Royal Academy, Millais’s reputation as an artist continued to build at a rapid pace; in 1846 he exhibited Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru in the Royal Academy’s annual exhibition and the following year won a gold medal for best historical painting for The Tribe of Benjamin Seizing the Inca.
     In 1848 Millais and a group of like-minded colleagues formed the Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) and, disenchanted with contemporary academic painting, adopted the philosophy that art ought to truthfully represent nature rather than strictly follow academic traditions. Art of the PRB is characterized by an extreme attention to detail, a high color palette and abundant symbolism. Although Millais followed the Victorian tradition of painting religious and literary themes, many of his PRB works were received harshly by critics, evident in Charles Dickens’ severe denunciation of Christ in the House of his Parents in his magazine Household Words:
“In the foreground of that carpenter's shop is a hideous, wrynecked, blubbering, red-headed boy, in a bed-gown, who appears to have received a poke in the hand, from the stick of another boy with whom he has been playing in an adjacent gutter, and to be holding it up for the contemplation of a kneeling woman, so horrible in her ugliness. that (supposing it were possible for any human creature to exist for a moment with that dislocated throat) she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest ginshop in England.”
     While Millais certainly received a great deal of criticism for his PRB works, he nevertheless continued to thrive as an artist; in 1852 he painting A Huguenot, which paved the way for his election as an associate of the Royal Academy the following year.
     In 1855 Millais married Effie Ruskin and moved to Perth, where the couple remained for six years. During his time in Perth, Millais experimented with general mood paintings and produced Autumn Leaves (1856), A Dream of the Past: Sir Isumbras at the Ford (1857) and The Vale of Rest (1859). Although these works proved difficult to sell, Millais soon found success in engraving and illustrations, including the Moxon edition of Tennyson’s poems (1857), the magazine Once a Week (1859 onwards) and several novels by Anthony Trollope.
     Millais and his family returned to London in 1861 and lived at 7 Cromwell Place in Kensington. In 1863 he was elected a full member of the Royal Academy. In addition to his academic success, Millais achieved popular success for his paintings of child subjects such as Bubbles (1886) and his paintings of beautiful women such as Stella (1868). He also developed a highly lucrative portrait practice from the early 1870s, with sitters including Thomas Carlyle (1877), Gladstone (1879 and 1885) and Tennyson (1881). These successes helped Millais fund the construction of his custom-built studio house at No. 2 Palace Gate in Kensington, where Millais spent the remainder of his life as a member of the Royal Academy. His loyalty led to his election as president of the Royal Academy following the death of Frederic Leighton in 1896, although his post was short-lived as he himself died six months later.


Spielmann, M. H. Millais and his Works. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1889.
Millais, John Guille. The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, President of the Royal Academy. London: Methuen, 1902.
Baldry, A. L. Millais. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1908.
Musson, Jeremy. "Has a Paint Pot Done All This?" in John Everett Millais Beyond the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
Warner, Malcolm. "John Everett Millais." In Oxford Art Online. (accessed November 19, 2016).
Warner, Malcolm. "John Everett Millais." In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (accessed November 19, 2016).


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John Everett Millais

Cite As

“John Everett Millais,” Victorian Artists at Home, accessed July 23, 2024,

Item Relations

This Item dcterms:relation Item: J. E. MILLAIS, R.A.
This Item dcterms:relation Item: JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS, R.A., D.C.L.
This Item dcterms:relation Item: No. 2 Palace Gate