One of the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Millais became a favourite painter of the Victorian era. The title for this painting comes from one of Shakespeare’s songs in As You Like It (Act II, Sc 7): Blow Blow thou winter wind Thou art not so unkind/ As man’s ingratitude…’

Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind is from the end of Millais’s career, and is part of a number of wintry landscape scenes painted when he and his family were staying in a house near Perth in Scotland. A remarkable study in greys and white, it depicts a young mother, her shawl pulled over her head in an attempt to keep the howling wind at bay, seated on a rock in the snow feeding her child. In the distance the child’s father strides off, his hat clapped to his head. Without understanding the title, the viewer might be unsure whether has left her reluctantly in order to go on ahead and search for food and lodgings, or whether he has abandoned her. At the centre is the hapless dog, who howls skyward, divided in its loyalty to the shivering mother and the man who is deserting her.

The painting is thought to have been a direct result of a scene Millais witnessed, and marked his return to the social themes seen in his earlier career.

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  • Title: Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind
  • Creator: John Everett Millais
  • Date Created: 1892
  • Physical Dimensions: w1550 x h1080 mm (Without frame)
  • Artist biography: John Everett Millais was born in Southampton in 1829. He trained at Sass’s Academy in London before becoming, aged 11, the youngest ever student of the Royal Academy. With the painters Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Millais went on to form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, an association of artists and writers influenced by medieval art. His work was championed for many years by the writer and theorist John Ruskin, even after Millais married Ruskin’s wife, Effie. Millais exhibited work at the Royal Academy from 1846 until his death, and also at the Exposition Universelle, Paris in 1855. From the 1870s, he turned increasingly to portraiture, painting portraits of many notable contemporaries, including the philosopher Thomas Carlyle, Prime Ministers William Ewart Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, and the poet Lord Tennyson. He helped to establish the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1889. Millais was elected to the Royal Academy in 1863 and became the President of the Royal Academy shortly before his death in 1896.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Moss Davis, 1933
  • External Link: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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