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An episode from the persecution of the Scottish Presbyterians under Charles II and James II. Margaret Wilson of Wigtown was a Covenaneter, an extreme Presbyterian bitterly opposed to the authority of bishops within the Church. For refusing to give up her beliefs, she was tied to a stake in the Solway Firth and left to drown as the tide came slowly in. The picture has the loose and painterly handling of Millais’ late manner, quite different from the sharp focus of his Pre-Raphaelite style. George Holt of Sudley House, Liverpool, bought the painting in 1891 before presenting it to the Walker four years later.

Details

  • Title: The Martyr of the Solway
  • Creator: John Everett Millais
  • Date Created: About 1871
  • tag / style: John Everett Millais; Pre-Raphaelite; persecution; Scottish Presbyterians; Charles II; James II; Margaret Wilson; Wigtown; Covenaneter; Martyr of the Solway; tied; stake; Solway Firth; drown; tide; red hair; shirt
  • Physical Dimensions: w565 x h705 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: John Everett Millais was born in Southampton to a wealthy Jersey family. Millais’s talent for drawing led his family to move to London to further their son’s artistic career. After training in the Sass’s School in London he enrolled at the Royal Academy at the age of 11. At the Royal Academy he met the painters Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three young students were disappointed with the teaching at the Royal Academy and the style of High Victorian art which prevailed at the Academy. They found that the greatly stylised and idealistic manner of painters such as Frederic, Lord Leighton had deprived art of a true spirit and its capacity to move spectators. In their efforts to promote a new type of art, less reliant on classicism and idealism, the three painters, together with others, founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. The name of the movement refers to their artistic influences coming from art made before the Renaissance artist Raphael (1483-1520), namely medieval art. Millais was elected a Royal Acedemician in 1863 and a President of the Royal Academy in 1896 when already ill with cancer. When he died he was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral next to Leighton. To find out more about John Everett Millais please follow the link to our online feature; http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/featuredartists/millais/
  • Additional artwork information: The painting we see shows Margaret Wilson wearing an open-neck blouse; however when conservators x-rayed the piece they found that this poignant picture was originally a nude. The Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais had painted Margaret in around 1871 without her shirt, with clothing being added later to placate delicate Victorian sensibilities. To find out more about John Everett Millais please follow the link to our online feature; http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/featuredartists/millais/
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Presented by George Holt in 1895

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