Слике страница
PDF
ePub

organ, "The Germ,' was set on foot.* Madox Brown, as has been said, was likewise a contributor. If we judge the artistic aspirations of the society by the plates of The Germ,' we find Madox Brown's influence predominant, though the most beautiful plate of the four is the one on which Holman Hunt has etched two illustrations to Woolner's poem My Beautiful Lady' But the literary side of the movement was already beginning to elbow out the artistic side. Several of the artist contributors were poets also-Woolner a better poet than artist. Collinson and Deverell write verse. Madox Brown publishes one sonnet at least of high excellence. William Rossetti and Stephens send criticisms, and these as often of poetry as of painting. And Dante Rossetti crowns the soon-to-be-strangled magazine (unsaleable then, unpurchaseable now) with an immortal garland by giving forth in it the first form of his “Blessed Damozel.'

And so it is that this Germ' is from the outset a dicotyledon, enfolding two births-one the purely artistic reform of Hunt and Millais, the other a literary-artistic one, which was Rossetti's own, and which, through another set, represented by another magazine, The Oxford and

Cambridge Magazine,' was to become the pre-raphaelitism of Morris and Burne-Jones-of Watts also in a great degree .--and, of the lesser men, the Strudwicks, the Stanhopes who followed afterwards. But this second movement we must call a revolution rather than a reform. Rossetti had in him the character of a revolutionist, a révolté. Millais had at heart nothing of this. The predominance of the literary element in the brotherhood almost from the outset might have served as a warning to Millais that he had no place there. For it was to be Millais' mission to demonstrate the eternal truth that a painter is before all things else an eye--an eye with a mind at the back of it if possible, but an eye first of all. And so far as it was a great propaganda of ideas, Millais soon, and wisely, separated himself from the society. Now is our round table dis

solved for ever,' Rossetti wrote after the election of Millais as an Associate of the Royal Academy. But Rossetti deceived himself in thinking that the association ever was so close, the creed of the sect as earnest as they appeared to his imagination. “My father and Rossetti were never very close friends, writes the present biographer. For us

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* The numbers bear the dates, January to April 1850.

a

6

6

it is both a dream and the awakening under a cold douche, first, in imagination, to follow that wayward and mystic figure of Dante Rossetti towards its other companionships and other developements; towards its ferocious solitudes, its night wanderings and opium dreams; and then to read that Millais tried a few years later to revive the association —the Germ’ set—as a sketching club, and to include in it two new members—the beautiful Marchioness of Waterford and Mrs. Boyle (E. V. B.).

Thus we must separate ourselves from the greater associations of the movement to find again the real Millais, the

child, in his correspondence with the Combes-still, so far as friendships go, quite in the set ;' for Combe, the manager of the Clarendon Press, was the chief patron of the preraphaelites, the buyer of the ‘Light of the World'-and in his diary. ( Coventry Patmore tells me I ought to keep a • diary.' Accordingly Millais begins one in October 1850, and it lasts till the end of that year.) For, after all, Millais was still but twenty-one. Iu outward character he was much of the Thackerayan painter, the Dick Tinto type, the most loveable species of such a general pattern. But he was never bohemian. This pre-raphaelite movement was closely allied with the religious movements of the time, sometimes most with the Broad Church party and the readers of Carlyle, sometimes with the High. Charlie Collins, the brother of Wilkie, Millais' chief companion just now, became, as bis friend records, more and more ascetic during this epoch. The Combes were somewhat in the Oxford movement, and Millais is careful to record the churches he attends and the sermons he listens to. He is staying the summer of 1850 in various places in the country, in lodgings at Botley, near Oxford, afterwards at a farmhouse in Surrey, with Charles Collins alone, then with Charles Collins, Hunt, and his brother William, reading poetry, on the one hand, and working with that immense and conscientious labour of the Brotherhood at • Ophelia,' at the ‘Huguenot. Then again playing with all 'the children together till bedtime'--their bedtime-and sitting up afterwards talking with Hunt till midnight. Millais' love of children comes out delightfully. In another passage of his diary he writes, “ Played with the children

after breakfast, and began painting about nine.' And again :

• Lavinia, beaten and put urder the garden clothes-pole for being naughty, to stay there until more composed. Perceiving that to be an

[ocr errors]

uncertain period, I kissed her wet eyes and released her from her
position and sat her by me—quite dumb for some time, suddenly
tremendously talkative. These are some of her observations : “We
haven't killed little Betsy (the pig) yet; she means to have little pigs
herself. Ann (the servant) says she is going to be your servant, and
me your cook when you get married.” Upon asking her whether she
could cook, she answered, "Not like the cooks do."
When we remember how beautiful in person was the
writer of this passage, we may guess if he had the gift to
make himself beloved.

A little later Millais travelled in Scotland, his brother William, Sir Thomas Acland, and others, coming and going. And there he first met the Ruskins. For all this period there is a record kept by sundry sketches of William Millais and more valuable ones by John. These last are enough to show that already pre-raphaelitism sat very lightly upon him. The drawings are almost as free in liandling as a present-day sketch by Forain or Herman Paul. Three years later Millais makes friends with Leech, and that means his introduction to the world of sport, for he began hunting under Leech's persuasion.

But for a long time after this another Millais is still treading carefully the stony steps of pre-raphaelite tradition and exactness. With Collins in Oxfordshire in 1850 he painted the background for • The Woodman's Daughter (the stitfest and most primitive-germanesque of all his productions, except the Dove returning to the Ark'); with Hunt later on he is working at the background of “The

Huguenot,' an ivied wall, and Hunt is making elaborate arrangements to get effects of lamplight and moonlight on his ivied door in The Light of the World'-admirable efforts, had only the outcome been commensurate! · But

. which should an artist seek,' pertinently asks M. Chesneau, * • the anatomy of life which is death, or the appearance

of life?' And of what good is the most beautifully painted of ivied walls when the figure in front of it, admirable as a separate study, is as clearly stuck over the background as a stainp is stuck upon an envelope ?

In this portion of the biography appear one or two descriptions of Millais' craftsmanship in those days which have no small interest. Mr. F. G. Stephens records the inteuse ardour with which the painter worked upon his · Ferdinand • lured by Ariel ;' and Mr. Barwell describes the technical processes whereby he gave luminosity to his colouring.

* La peinture anglaise, p. 200.

[ocr errors]

6

6

[ocr errors]

6

6

[ocr errors]

We inay

6

[ocr errors]

How 'white mixed with copal was laid on where he intended * to work for the day,' then painted into, the whole drying * together.' For the night-dresses in The Rescue 'strontian yellow was mixed with the white, and then rose-madder mingled with copal, floated as it were over the solid but wet paint.'

The moment when Millais parted company with the preraphaelites should be reckoned less by his change of technique than by the change in the sources of his inspiration. Of course years with the great majority of men, more especially with successful men, are wont to bring not so much the philosophic mind as the prosaic one. be sure that the young man with the face of an angel whom we find in Worcester Park farm reading Tennyson with ever increased veneration,' reading the Blot on the

Scutcheon' and Christabel,' did so from genuine love of poetry, not only because his comrades had the same tastes. But the intellectual change of Millais' later years was too great to be the result altogether of internal evolution. It is evident that the little band of enthusiasts stimulated him beyond his nature, in the same way that they kept his painting in qnite a different stage of development from his pencil sketches. The ‘moral purpose of Ruskin and the pre-raphaelites was likewise long with Millais. His celebrated, by many greatly admired, 'Rescue’ was suggested to him by the sight of the destruction of Meux's Brewery by fire (1855), but not by any observed effect of light or of grouping. He was impressed by the heroism of two firemen who lost their lives while at work.

One day in 1855,' writes Mr. Arthur IIughes, 'the moment I saw him (Millais), he began to describe the next subject he proposed to paint-" to honour a set of men quietly doing a noble work-firemen; and he poured out, and painted in words of vividness and reality, the scene he put on canvas later. I never see it or think of it without seeing also the picture of himself glorified with enthusiasm as he was describing it.

Even in respect of Millais' intellectuality, however, no precise moment of transition can be assigned from the earlier manner to the later, from Millais the pre-raphaelite to Millais the realist, or, as some would say, Millais the philistine. If Ophelia' be about the high-water mark of the first manner, with its intense purity of line and something heavenly in its stiff grace,* nothing could be more

* Millais repainted parts of Ophelia in 1873, among other parts the face. But the drawing was not altered.

VOL. CXCI. NO. CCCXCI.

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

commonplace--from an intellectual standpoint, that is to say--than the Prescribed Royalist' of one year later. And the ‘Prescribed Royalist' is followed in two years' time by 'Autumn Leaves,' which is always reckoned the last word of pre-raphaelitism in the treatment of nature, and by the Blind Girl,' on which Ruskin lavished deserved praise. Two years after that came . Apple Blossoms' and

The Vale of Rest,' while there was a number of pictures painted during the same period which, for all that touches their intellectual quality, should be classed with Raleigh' or "The North-West Passage: ' such pictures are “The • Order of Release' and 'The Random Shot.' Finally, many of the technical methods of his pre-raphaelite days Millais preserved as late as 1867, and displays in those uninspired productions, ‘My First Sermon, My Second

Sermon,' Sleeping,' and 'Waking.' Thus is it impossible to draw quite hard and fast lines in the history of Millais' artistic evolution.

The year which followed the Highland tour was the year of Millais' marriage. After that came the last setback which he experienced on his road to popularity. It was not a very serious check, and Mr. J. G. Millais immensely exaggerates the state of things when he speaks of his father's livelihood being threatened thereby. What Millais himself writes implies precisely the reverse. It is because people are envious of a young artist making nine hundred guineas by his pictures that they make these

wicked' attacks upon him, he says. It would not be difficult to find young artists who would consent to take the wicked attacks if they might take also the occasion of them. Millais had probably other and private causes for irritation and ill-ease. In any case, he shows at this moment a sensitiveness to criticism which is beyond all measure, and which leads him into the only serious offences against taste of which there is any record in these volumes.

The ten years which followed this momentary trouble were not eventful ones in Millais' art or in his life. But, no doubt, the necessary changes in the last, which resulted from his marriage, were not without their effect upon the former. His intimate outside friendships became naturally less close, and as we have few letters from him to the members of his own family, the effect produced upon our minds is that of a certain stiffness, a certain turn towards conventionality, towards sport and the ordinary social pleasures. It was through his wife that Millais got firmly

« ПретходнаНастави »