Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Model Wife: Effie, Ruskin and Millais
Effie Gray, a renowned beauty and socialite, was at the centre of Victorian England's most scandalous love triangle, involving two giants of the art world. Married at nineteen to the much older John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the time, she found herself trapped in a loveless and unconsummated union with a husband who was to claim that 'her person was not formed to excite passion'. Then, on a trip to Scotland during which John Everett Millais, Ruskin's acclaimed protégé, was supposed to paint her husband's portrait, she and Millais fell in love. This was to result in public disgrace, but also in a long and happy second marriage. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie's extensive and previously unseen letters and diaries to reveal the reality behind this great Victorian love story. A major critical reassessment of the Victorian art world, the book addresses the careers of Ruskin and Millais from a new angle, with Effie emerging as a key figure in the artistic development of both men. Effie, her sisters and daughters appear in many of Millais most haunting images, embodying Victorian society's fears about female sexuality and freedom. 'The Model Wife' is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the most beautiful and celebrated pre-Raphaelite paintings.