Published: July 23, 2002
LONDON – The National Portrait Gallery has acquired one of Millais’s greatest portraits with the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund).
Louise Jopling (1843-1933) was one of the most important British women painters of the later Nineteenth Century as well as a central figure in artistic and literary circles of the period. Millais’s painting of her is widely acknowledged as being among his greatest portraits; James McNeill Whistler, who also painted Jopling, called it “a superb portrait” and “a great work.”
It was completed in five sittings in the summer of 1879 and was exhibited to critical acclaim at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880. In its use of a plain background, this portrait is comparable to Millais’s other female portraits of the same period, such as those of Lillie Langtry and Kate Perugini. It combines a strong sense of design with decisive handling and conveys Jopling’s strength and independence as well as her undoubted glamour.
The portrait has been purchased from a private collection for £430,000 and the acquisition was made possible by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £240,000 and an Art Fund grant of £100,000.
Born Louis Goode, the fifth child of a Manchester railway contractor, Jopling studied art in Paris in the mid-1860s and married the watercolorist Joseph Jopling in 1874. She exhibited portraits and subject paintings at the Paris Salon from 1869, the Royal Academy from 1871 and the Grosvenor Gallery from its inception in 1877.
Her autobiography Twenty Years of My Life records her close friendships with the leading figures in the literary, theatrical and artistic circles of the time, especially her fellow painters Whistler and Millais himself. Jopling established her own art school to train women as professional artists in 1887 and was a supporter of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage.
Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896) entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1840 and exhibited his first painting at the RA in 1846 when he was 16. With William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, he was a founder of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and, as a painter, its most accomplished member. In the later 1850s Millais broadened his style and became the most admired and successful portrait painter of the later Victorian period. He became the first English artist to be made a Baronet and was elected president of the Royal Academy in 1896, but died a few month later. Millais’s portraiture was the subject of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 1999.
For information, www.npg.org.uk.
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