l_a_r_m (l_a_r_m) wrote,

Behind a Portrait

I wrote most of this back in November and had nowhere to post it. Then I remembered Why, I've got a LJ now! A place to post exactly this sort of. . . erm, tale. This is from what was pretty much the best and funniest lecture in 19th Century Painting. It's a tad bit naughty but mostly really funny and odd - beware!

So we're doing the Pre-Raphaelites right now, which I'm so excited about because it's my favorite movement. What I did not know before today were some really wacky stories from time - this is the best one. It starts with Millais, who pretty much started the style - he was initially unpopular despite being a young painting prodigy, and most people didn't like the direction he was going in.

Millais had one friend/defender in creative circles, famous art critic John Ruskin. They were so buddy-buddy that Ruskin invited him up to his home in Scotland to paint his portrait. Up there Ruskin has this little wife, Effie, that he'd been married to for six years. Six celibate years. You see, he was a lot older than she, and had in fact fallen in love with her when she was only eleven. He wrote all these books and poems for little Effie, and waited until she was old enough to marry him.

Problem was, once they were married he refused to consummate their relationship, citing disgust with certain aspects of her person. Turns out Ruskin didn't realize that grown women had pubic hair.

So we had poor little Effie all alone up in Scotland, very pretty and a bit of a flirt, stuck being involuntarily celibate. Cue the arrival of Millais: young, glamorous, the artistic genius of the avant-garde. Things get a little cozy out in the country while Millais is supposed to be painting her husband's portrait - and Millais and Effie become confidants. She confesses the high-and-dry marriage. Despite being Ruskin's protege, he starts pushing her to divorce her husband.

Getting a divorce was huge thing then, even in England, and the whole thing was examined very thoroughly by the courts, which is why we know all the hairy details about things like pubic hair. Effie's and Ruskin's testimonies pretty much went all the way there. At the end of it, their marriage was annulled. Effie and Millais got married the following year and punched out eight kids total.

So, does this painting look a little off to you? Millais took his time with the background, depicting an actual scene from Scotland, but by the time he got to doing the figure of Ruskin all this wacky stuff was coming out into the open. Everything was majorly awkward between the two and neither felt like traipsing out into the countryside together. Eventually Millais had Ruskin pose on a staircase in his house while he quickly finished the portrait. Lolz!

Tags: art, class, hanky-panky
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