Victorian Art & Design
The Pre-Raphaelites in 1852
Millais, Holman Hunt and Madox Brown at the R.A.

 In 1852 Millais sent a painting of Shakespeare's drowning Ophelia to the Royal Academy. It is shown above. (He also sent a very popular picture called The Huguenot.) The model for Ophelia was a milliner's assistant, Lizzie Siddall. She had to pose for hours on end in a bath. On the last occasion the lamps heating the water went out and she caught a severe cold. Her father nearly sued Millais as a result.

Millais painted the background of Ophelia at Ewell in Surrey. He says that he painted by the river for eleven hours a day, hindered by two swans and innumerable flies. He painted the plants in such detail that a Victorian Botany teacher even took his class to study the plants in Ophelia

  Holman Hunt went with Millais to Ewell to paint the background for his painting for the 1852 Royal Academy. This was The Hireling Shepherd, shown below. It has a shepherd showing a girl  the skull on the wings of a death's head moth. The painting is a symbolic attack on the clergy for neglecting their flock, but Hunt said much later, ' My first object was to pourtray a real Shepherd and Shepherdess...absolute fields and trees and sky and clouds instead of the painted dolls with pattern backgrounds ... of the period'.

Ford Madox Brown exhibited two paintings at the 1852 Royal Academy. Both were painted according to Pre-Raphaelite principles. For Jesus Washing Peter's Feet he said, 'This picture was painted in four months and the flesh painted on wet white at Millais` lying instigation.' Madox Brown also used the wet white technique for his Pretty Baa Lambs. This was his first painting where the figures and the background were both painted out of doors. Unlike Hunt and Millais there were bad reviews of Madox Brown's two paintings and no buyer for them.
Millais 1853-56       Holman Hunt 1853-56        Rossetti