Effie Gray

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the biographical film, see Effie Gray (film).
Ambrotype photograph by Lewis Carroll from July 21, 1865 depicting Effie Gray, John Everett Millais, and their daughters Effie and Mary at 7 Cromwell Place, signed "Effie C. Millais".

Euphemia Chalmers Millais, Lady Millais née Gray, known as Effie Gray, Effie Ruskin or Effie Millais (1828 – 23 December 1897) was the wife of the critic John Ruskin, but left her husband without the marriage being consummated, and after the annulment of the marriage, married his protégé, the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. This famous Victorian "love triangle" has been dramatised in plays, films and an opera.

Relationship with Ruskin and Millais[edit]

Effie Gray, initially known by the pet name of "Phemy", was born in Perth, Scotland, and lived in Bowerswell, the house where Ruskin's grandfather had committed suicide. Her family knew Ruskin's father, who encouraged a match between them. Ruskin wrote the fantasy novel The King of the Golden River for her in 1841, when she was twelve years old. After their marriage in 1848,[1] they travelled to Venice where Ruskin was researching his book The Stones of Venice. Their different personalities are thrown into sharp relief by their contrasting priorities. For Effie, Venice provided an opportunity to socialise, while Ruskin was engaged in solitary studies. In particular, he made a point of drawing the Ca' d'Oro and the Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, because he feared they would be destroyed by the occupying Austrian troops. One of these troops, Lieutenant Charles Paulizza, made friends with Effie, apparently with no objection from Ruskin. Her brother, among others, later claimed that Ruskin was deliberately encouraging the friendship to compromise her, as an excuse to separate.

Effie Gray painted by Thomas Richmond. She thought the portrait made her look like "a graceful Doll".[2]

When she met Millais five years later, she was still a virgin, as Ruskin had persistently put off consummating the marriage. His reasons are unclear, but they involved disgust with some aspect of her body. As she later wrote to her father,

"He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason... that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April."

Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings: "It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it."[3] The reason for Ruskin's disgust with "circumstances in her person" is unknown. Various suggestions have been made, including revulsion at either her pubic hair,[4] or menstrual blood.[5]

While married to Ruskin, she modelled for Millais' painting The Order of Release, in which she was depicted as the loyal wife of a Scottish rebel who has secured his release from prison. She then became close to Millais when he accompanied the couple on a trip to Scotland in order to paint Ruskin's portrait according to the critic's artistic principles. During this time, spent in Brig o' Turk in the Trossachs, they fell in love. She left Ruskin and, with the support of her family and a number of influential friends, filed for an annulment, causing a major public scandal; their marriage was annulled in 1854. In 1855, she married John Millais and eventually bore him eight children: Everett, born in 1856; George, born in 1857; Effie, born in 1858; Mary, born in 1860; Alice, born in 1862; Geoffroy, born in 1863; John in 1865; and Sophie in 1868. Their youngest son John Guille Millais was a notable bird artist and gardener. She also modelled for a number of her husband's works, notably Peace Concluded (1856), which idealises her as an icon of beauty and fertility.

When Ruskin later sought to become engaged to a teenage girl, Rose La Touche, Rose's parents were concerned. They wrote to Gray to ask about the marriage; she replied by describing Ruskin as an oppressive husband. The engagement was broken off.

Influence on Millais[edit]

Gray in middle age, painted by Millais. She is holding a copy of the Cornhill Magazine.

After his marriage, Millais began to paint in a broader style, which Ruskin condemned as a "catastrophe". Marriage had given him a large family to support, and it is claimed[who?] that his wife encouraged him to churn out popular works for financial gain and to maintain her busy social life. However, there is no evidence that she consciously pressured him to do so, though she was an effective manager of his career and often collaborated with him in choosing subjects. Her journal indicates her high regard for her husband's art, and his works are still recognisably Pre-Raphaelite in style several years after his marriage.

However, Millais eventually abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite obsession with detail and began to paint in a looser style which produced more paintings for the time and effort. Many were inspired by his family life with his wife, often using his children and grandchildren as models. Millais also used his sister-in-law, Sophy Gray, then in her early teens, as the basis of some striking images in the mid to late 1850s, provoking suggestions of a mutual infatuation.[6]

Later life[edit]

The annulment from Ruskin barred her from some social functions. She was not allowed in the presence of Queen Victoria, precluding invitations to events at which the Queen was present. Prior to the annulment, she had been socially very active and this bothered both her and her husband considerably, although many in society were still prepared to receive her and to press her case sympathetically.[7] Eventually, when Millais was dying, the Queen relented through the intervention of her daughter Princess Louise, allowing Gray to attend an official function. Sixteen months after Millais' death, Effie died at Bowerswell on 23 December 1897[8] and was buried in Kinnoull churchyard, Perth, which is depicted in Millais's painting The Vale of Rest.

In drama and literature[edit]

Her marriage to Ruskin and subsequent romance with Millais have been dramatised on many occasions:

References[edit]

  1. ^ James, William Milbourne, ed. (1948). The Order of Release: The Story of John Ruskin, Effie Gray and John Everett Millais Told for the First Time in their Unpublished Letters. University of Michigan: J. Murray. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Euphemia ('Effie') Chalmers (née Gray), Lady Millais, National Portrait Gallery
  3. ^ Lutyens, M., Millais and the Ruskins, p.191
  4. ^ Phyllis Rose (1983) Parallel Lives; Franny Moyle (2009) Desperate Romantics
  5. ^ Peter Fuller, Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace, Chatto & Windus, 1988, pp.11-12; Suzanne Fagence Cooper (2010) The Model Wife: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, Ruskin and Millais
  6. ^ Suzanne Fagence Cooper (2010) The Model Wife: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, Ruskin and Millais
  7. ^ Suzanne Fagence Cooper (2010) The Model Wife: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, Ruskin and Millais
  8. ^ James, W. (2008). The Order of Release - The Story of John Ruskin, Effie Gray and John Everett Millias. Read. p. 251. ISBN 978-1-4437-0293-5. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  9. ^ Dakota Fanning and Emma Thompson Team for 1850s Victorian Drama "Effie"

External links[edit]