John Everett Millais Quotes

John Everett Millais Quotes

Here are some famous John Everett Millais quotes by the English Pre-Raphaelite painter.

Who was John Everett Millais?

John Everett Millais (1829–1896) was a prominent English painter and illustrator, a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and one of the leading figures of the Victorian art scene. His works ranged from detailed and vibrant Pre-Raphaelite compositions to later pieces that embraced a more mainstream style. Millais played a crucial role in shaping the artistic landscape of 19th-century Britain.

Early Life and Formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Born on June 8, 1829, in Southampton, England, Millais showed early artistic talent. In 1848, he joined Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt to form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists dedicated to reviving the detailed and vivid style of early Italian Renaissance painters. They rejected the academic conventions of their time and sought a return to the sincerity and intensity of pre-Raphaelite art.

Pre-Raphaelite Works

Millais’s early works with the Pre-Raphaelites were characterized by meticulous attention to detail, vibrant colors, and a commitment to painting directly from nature. Notable paintings from this period include Isabella (1849) and Ophelia (1852), both of which showcase the Brotherhood’s distinctive style. “Ophelia” is particularly celebrated for its detailed depiction of nature and its emotional resonance.

Academic Recognition and Controversy

Millais’s talent quickly gained recognition, and in 1850, he became an associate member of the Royal Academy. His painting Christ in the House of His Parents (1850) stirred controversy for its realistic portrayal of the Holy Family, deviating from conventional idealized representations. The work faced harsh criticism, but it also demonstrated Millais’s commitment to challenging artistic norms.

Evolving Style and Academic Success

Over time, Millais’s style evolved, and he gradually moved away from the strict Pre-Raphaelite principles. His later works embraced a more conventional approach, reflecting the influence of academic traditions. Despite this shift, he continued to achieve success within the academic establishment, eventually becoming a full member of the Royal Academy in 1863.

Portrait Painting and Commercial Success

Millais excelled in portrait painting, capturing the likenesses of prominent figures of his time. His portraits, including those of influential individuals like Cardinal Newman and Thomas Carlyle, were notable for their technical skill and attention to detail. Millais’s portraits contributed to his commercial success and social standing.

Literary Illustrations

In addition to his paintings, Millais had a successful career as an illustrator. He collaborated with authors such as Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope, producing illustrations for their novels. His ability to convey narrative elements through visual storytelling extended his influence beyond the canvas.

Later Career and Baronetcy

As Millais’s career progressed, he continued to receive accolades and honors. In 1885, he was awarded a baronetcy, becoming Sir John Everett Millais. Despite criticism from some quarters for abandoning the early principles of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Millais’s contributions to art were widely recognized.


John Everett Millais left a lasting legacy in the history of British art. His early Pre-Raphaelite works continue to be celebrated for their innovative approach and vivid detail. His later portraits and illustrations, marked by technical proficiency, also contributed to the cultural landscape of Victorian England. Millais’s ability to adapt and succeed in different artistic styles exemplifies his versatility and enduring impact on the art world.

John Everett Millais’s Contribution to Art History

John Everett Millais made significant contributions to art history through his role as a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and his later achievements as a versatile painter and illustrator. His impact is characterized by several key elements.

Millais, along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt, formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. They sought to revive the detailed and vibrant style of early Italian Renaissance painters, rejecting the academic norms of their time.

Millais’s portraits, such as Portrait of Sophie Gray and Cherry Ripe, showcased meticulous attention to detail and vibrant colors, while continuing the style of Pre-Raphaelite pictures.

Millais’s painting “Christ in the House of His Parents” faced controversy for its realistic portrayal of the Holy Family, challenging conventional idealized representations. The work demonstrated his commitment to pushing artistic boundaries and challenging academic norms prevalent in Victorian society.

Despite his early association with the Pre-Raphaelites, Millais’s style evolved over time. He gradually moved away from the strict principles of the Brotherhood and embraced a more conventional approach, reflecting the influence of academic traditions. This versatility allowed him to navigate changing artistic landscapes and contribute to various genres.

Millais received academic recognition and became a full member of the Royal Academy. Despite criticism for departing from the early ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he achieved commercial success and was honored with a baronetcy in 1885. Millais’s legacy lies in his versatility, from the pioneering days of the Pre-Raphaelites to his later achievements as a portraitist and illustrator. His impact on Victorian art and his ability to adapt to changing artistic currents contribute to his enduring significance in the history of art.

John Everett Millais Quotes

  • I am emphatically of the opinion that the best art of modern times is as good as any of its kind that has gone before, and furthermore, that the best art of England can hold its own against the world. It is manifestly impossible to make just comparisons between the widely divergent styles of the Ancient and Modern Masters, or to attempt to strike a balance between, say, Rubens and Hogarth; but to say that the old alone is good betrays great lack of judgment, and is an ingratitude to the living
  • The flies of Surrey are more muscular and have a still greater propensity for probing human flesh… I am threatened with a notice to appear before a magistrate for trespassing in a field and destroying the hay… and am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water. Certainly, the painting of a picture under such circumstances would be a greater punishment to a murderer than hanging
  • That is mere imitation, and I could place my hand on half a dozen men who could do as much. Not that I underrate imitative painting for a moment—it is a necessary part of an artist’s business, and a high achievement in itself, this representing, on the flat, of the color, texture, and chiaroscuro of a solid object in such a way as to deceive the eye. But it is hardly necessary to say that nowadays art demands much more than that
  • So fine is some of the work our modern sculptors have given us, that I firmly believe that were it dug up from under oyster shells in Rome or out of Athenian sands with the cachet of partial dismemberment about it, all Europe would fall straightway into ecstasy and give forth their plaintive wail, we can do nothing like that now, Verily the great handicapper and chief offending of modern art is its unavoidable modernity
  • The great artists all painted in bright colors, such as it is the fashion nowadays for men to decry as crude and vulgar, never suspecting that what they applaud in those works is merely the result of what they condemn in their contemporaries
  • Man was not intended to live alone, marriage is the best cure for that wretched lingering over one’s work. I think I must feel more settled than you all. I would immensely like to see you all married like myself and anchored
  • Work should always look as though it had been done with ease, however, elaborate; what we see should appear to have been done without effort, whatever may be the agonies beneath the surface
  • 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
  • The Elgin Marbles are allowed by common consent to be the perfection of art. But how much of our feeling of reverence is inspired by Time?
  • I believe that however admirably he may paint in a certain method, or however perfectly he may render a certain class of subject, the artist should not be content to adhere to a specialty of manner or method. A fine style is good, but it is not everything—it is not absolutely necessary
  • There is among us a band of young men, who, though English, persist in painting with a broken French accent, all of them much alike, and seemingly content to lose their identity in their imitation of French masters, whom they are constitutionally, absolutely, and in the nature of things, unable to copy with justice either to themselves or to their models. Imitation, however, is pardonable in young men—and only in young men —and sooner or later their ability will inevitably lead them to assert their individuality if they have any
  • It will be remembered that Rembrandt, in his first period, was very careful and minute in detail, and there is evidence of stippling in his flesh painting; but when he grew older and in the fulness of his power, all appearance of such manipulation and minuteness vanished in the breath and facility of his brush, though the advantage of his early manner remained. The latter manner is, of course,; much the finer and really the more finished of the two”

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