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Bubbles - Sir John Everett Millais - Framed Print - 20"H x 16"W


Bubbles - Sir John Everett Millais - Framed Print - 20"H x 16"W

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, PRA was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

A child prodigy, at the age of eleven Millais became the youngest student to enter the Royal Academy Schools. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded at his family home. Millais became the most famous exponent of the style, his painting Christ in the House of His Parents generating considerable controversy. By the mid-1850s Millais was moving away from the Pre-Raphaelite style and developing a new and powerful form of realism in his art. His later works were enormously successful, making Millais one of the wealthiest artists of his day.

Bubbles, originally titled A Child's World, is a painting that became famous when it was used over many generations in advertisements for Pears soap. During Millais's lifetime it led to widespread debate about the relationship between art and advertising.

The painting was one of many child pictures for which Millais had become well known in his later years. It was modelled by his five-year-old grandson William Milbourne James and was based vanitas imagery, which commented upon the transience of life.

The painting portrays a young golden-haired boy looking up at a bubble, symbolising the beauty and fragility of life. On one side of him is a young plant growing in a pot, emblematic of life, and on the other is a fallen broken pot, emblematic of death. He is spot-lit against a gloomy background.

It was seen by Thomas J. Barratt, managing director of A & F Pears. Barratt purchased the original painting which gave him exclusive copyright on the picture. Millais' permission was sought in order to alter the picture by the addition of a bar of Pears Soap, so that it could be used for the purposes of advertising. Millais was initially apprehensive at the prospect of his work and his grandson being the subject of commercial exploitation. However, when he was shown the proofs of the proposed advertisements he grew to appreciate the idea, which portrayed the soap as if the child had used it to make the bubbles.

Following the success of this advertisement Millais was attacked in print by the novelist Marie Corelli who accused him in her novel The Sorrows of Satan of prostituting his talent to sell soap. Corelli retracted her comments in a later edition of the book.

The advertisement became so well known that William Milbourne James, who later rose to the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy, was known as "Bubbles" for the rest of his life.

Since A & F Pears was acquired by Lever Brothers, the painting has been in their ownership.

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