Our Pre-Raph Gang

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Great Holman Hunt/ Millais Paint-Off!




This probably won't be the last time you'll hear goat jokes in reference to William Holman Hunt here in Pre-Raphernalia.

Holman Hunt and Millais were the closest of friends in their early Pre-Raphaelite days, but as their painting styles took off in radically different directions, so did their careers.

When Hunt went to Palestine to paint several painstakingly researched religious subjects, he also created what was to become possibly his strangest symbolic picture:

As my college art history professor mumbled
every time this slide came up in class:
"Poor goat."
Scapegoat, Version 2. Despite the rainbow, the poor goat
would still rather be somewhere else.
There were two different versions of this painting and two different goats. (The first one died.) A Hebrew tradition goes that, on the Day of Atonement, a red cloth (representing sin) is tied around the horns of a goat and the poor creature is cast out into the wilderness, taking all the community's sins with it.
Holman Hunt's chosen setting for his painting is one of the bleakest spots on earth: the Dead Sea, of all places, where Maniac set up his easel and tied up his goat(s).

When the painting eventually came back to England, it had people scratching their heads. "We don't really get it, but it is a nicely painted goat..."

Millais, on the other hand, was getting quite a reputation as a portrait painter, something he was doing more and more frequently to pay the bills. (He and his new wife Effie were making up for the Ruskin years by producing an incredible amount of children. More on the "Ruskin Years" in a future post...)
Millais had always been adept at painting facial expressions and he was also very, very good at painting children. A little too good.

Pretty soon he was cranking them out left and right. Here are only a few:
Little Miss Muffet
Cherry Ripe

Oh yes... and the notorious "Bubbles":


This picture of Millais' grandson was used for a Victorian soap advertisement and it sealed Millais' fate as a sentimental painter of
ridiculously cute children.
Incidentally the little kid in this painting grew up to be Sir Admiral William Milbourne James, who had to put up with the nickname "Bubbles" for the rest of his life.



But it is a nicely painted soap bubble, don't you think....?


Coming up next:  We meet Topsy and Ned.

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