Monday, September 13, 2010

John Everett Millais - William Millais sketching

Price Realized £11,250

Portait of the artist's brother, William Millais, with canvas, palette and fishing rod, Brig O'Turk, Scotland
signed with monogram and dated '1853' (upper right), and with inscription 'Rainy days at Brig O'Turk No. 29 THE HIGHLAND SKETCHBOOK OF JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS 1853' (on the reverse)
pen and brown ink, irregular
3½ x 9 1/8 in. (9 x 23.2 cm.)

The present drawing is from the celebrated sketchbook of August 1853 when John Everett Millais and his brother William joined John and Effie Ruskin on a trip to the Scottish Highlands, where they stayed at Brig O'Turk. The sketchbook was filled with highly wrought drawings of the various ploys of the party, salmon-fishing, sketching and expeditions in the hills, as well as containing comical caricatures of the people whom they encountered.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the sketchbook is the almost diary-like sketches that capture moments between J.E. Millais and Effie Ruskin as they fell hopelessly in love. The trip was intended as a rest for Millais, after a hard season of work. Ruskin actively encouraged Millais and Effie to spend time together. According to William Millais: 'Every afternoon by way of exercise Ruskin and I spent our time with pickaxe and barrow and spade to cut a canal across a bend in the river - whilst he preferred that ECG [Euphemia Chalmers Gray, i.e. Effie] should roam the hills with JEM & presently they did not return until quite late - Ruskin's remark to me was, 'How well your brother and my wife get on together!''.

The painting that Millais began on this trip was a portrait of John Ruskin standing by the Glenfinlas Falls (Private Collection). During that summer's trip a chain of events would be unleashed that led to the Ruskins' marriage being annulled and Millais and Effie eventually marrying in the summer of 1855. Predictably the friendship between the two men ended, but it did not prevent Ruskin from continuing to write favourably of Millais' work and his Academy Notes of 1855-6 contain some of the highest and most eloquent praise the artist was ever to receive.

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