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.



Hels said...

I always felt so sorry for Effie, being stuck with the pompous, self centred and apparently virginal John Ruskin. Did he have a mother problem?

So yes it was a great story that she and Millais found each other, before it was too late for her to have a life.

But more importantly for art history, Effie allowed herself (of course) but also her sisters and daughters to model for Millais in images that represent some of the very best of Pre Raphaelite art. I would be gay in a heartbeat for the women in those paintings.

Poetry of the Day said...

what really is "the model wife" tho?

Hermes said...

I must try and find this. I agree with you about Ruskin who always seemed on the edge of genius / madness and tipped over with Rose. Millais seems the sort of chap you would like to go for a drink with.