Thursday 28th July 2016

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Today I was the leader of the forest school at Compton Verney which took place around the willow tunnel. We did pom pom making and weaving of many kinds including weaving among the willow tunnel itself. Clifford and Janet were great and it was good to have Clifford stay until the end of the session. I was pleased that despite the mixed weather we had over seventy people taking part. One young visitor wanted to stay all day and weave her section and she made a great job of it to.

IMG_20160728_114437IMG_20160728_114441IMG_20160728_143735IMG_20160728_115625IMG_20160728_145141IMG_20160728_144537IMG_20160728_115637IMG_20160728_115733IMG_20160728_121059IMG_20160728_122522IMG_20160728_125326IMG_20160728_152151IMG_20160728_152100IMG_20160728_144627IMG_20160728_170156IMG_20160728_170112IMG_20160728_170208Effie Gray

Effie Gray

A 2014 British biographical drama film directed by Richard Laxton.

Its subject is the love triangle involving Victorian art critic John Ruskin (played by Greg Wise) his wife Euphemia “Effie” Gray (Dakota Fanning) and Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge). Emma Thompson also appears in the film as Elizabeth Eastlake. The film’s initial release was delayed by lawsuits alleging that the script, written by Emma Thompson, was plagiarised from earlier dramatisations of the same story. The cases were won by Thompson.

In a pre-credit sequence Effie Gray is seen walking through a garden speaking about a fairy story in which a girl married a man with wicked parents. After the credits, the marriage of Effie to John Ruskin in Perth, Scotland is seen. The couple travel to London to stay with his parents. Effie soon begins to feel isolated, especially as she is repeatedly belittled by John’s mother. Her distress is compounded by the fact that her husband shows no interest in consummating the marriage and refuses to discuss the subject.

At the Royal Academy of Arts, John and Effie attend a dinner at which there is heated debate about the new Pre-Raphaelite movement in art, which John supports. John convinces Sir Charles Eastlake, the president of the academy, to allow the young artists to exhibit their pictures. Effie attracts the attention of Sir Charles’ wife, Elizabeth. When the Eastlakes visit the Ruskins, Elizabeth sees how distressed Effie is in the repressive atmosphere of the Ruskin family.

Effie hopes that matters will improve when they travel to Venice, where John will be researching his new book The Stones of Venice. But when they get there, John busies himself studying the many historic monuments of the city, leaving Effie in the company of Rafael, a young Italian. Effie enjoys the city life, but is distressed when Rafael nearly rapes her. Her husband seems oblivious to the situation.

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Effie dreads returning to the Ruskin family. Back at their house she suffers from a string of nervous aliments. Her doctor advises fresh air and more attention from her husband. John says they intend to travel to Scotland where Everett Millais, one of the Pre-Raphaelites, will paint his portrait. In Scotland, Everett befriends Effie, and becomes increasingly disturbed by John’s dismissive attitude to his wife. He is deeply embarrassed when John leaves the two of them alone together for several nights when he visits Edinburgh. Effie and Everett fall in love. When John returns he says Effie must come back with him to London. Everett convinces her to take someone she trusts with her and to explore the options for divorce. Effie brings her sister Sophy, claiming that Sophy wants to see the capital.

In London, Effie visits Elizabeth Eastlake. She tells her she is still a virgin and that John has told her he was disgusted by her body on their wedding night. Elizabeth advises her to seek legal advice. Effie is examined by a doctor, who confirms her virginity. Her lawyer tells her the marriage can be annulled. Effie leaves for Scotland, supposedly to accompany her sister, but really to leave John forever. Before she leaves London, she visits Everett, but only communicates with him via her sister. Everett says he will wait for her. Ruskin’s family is horrified when Effie’s lawyer calls round with a notification of annulment proceedings on the grounds of John’s impotence. As she travels back north, Effie smiles.

Euphemia Chalmers Millais, Lady Millais née Gray, known as Effie Gray, Effie Ruskin or Effie Millais was the wife of the critic John Ruskin, but she left her husband without the marriage being consummated. She later married his protégé, the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais.

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Effie Gray, initially known by the pet name of “Phemy”, was born in Perth, Scotland, and lived in Bowerswell, the house where Ruskin’s grandfather had committed suicide. Her family knew Ruskin’s father, who encouraged a match between them. Ruskin wrote the fantasy novel The King of the Golden River for her in 1841, when she was twelve years old. After their marriage in 1848, they travelled to Venice, where Ruskin was researching his book The Stones of Venice.

Their different personalities are thrown into sharp relief by their contrasting priorities. For Effie, Venice provided an opportunity to socialise while Ruskin was engaged in solitary studies. In particular, he made a point of drawing the Ca’ d’Oro and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), because he feared they would soon be destroyed by the occupying Austrian troops. One of the troops, Lieutenant Charles Paulizza, made friends with Effie, apparently with no objection from Ruskin. Her brother, among others, later claimed that Ruskin was deliberately encouraging the friendship to compromise her, as an excuse to separate.

When she met Millais five years later, she was still a virgin, as Ruskin had persistently put off consummating the marriage. His reasons are unclear, but they involved disgust with some aspect of her body. As she later wrote to her father,

“He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April.”

Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings: “It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.” The reason for Ruskin’s disgust with “circumstances in her person” is unknown. Various suggestions have been made, including revulsion at either her pubic hair, or menstrual blood. However, Robert Brownell, in his analysis Marriage of Inconvenience, argues that Ruskin’s difficulty with the marriage was financial and related to concerns that Effie and her less-affluent family were trying to tap into Ruskin’s considerable wealth. While married to Ruskin, she modelled for Millais’ painting The Order of Release, in which she was depicted as the loyal wife of a Scottish rebel who has secured his release from prison. She then became close to Millais when he accompanied the couple on a trip to Scotland in order to paint Ruskin’s portrait according to the critic’s artistic principles. During this time, spent in Brig o’ Turk in the Trossachs, they fell in love. While working on the portrait of her husband, Millais made many drawings and sketches of her. He also sent humorous cartoons of himself, Effie and Ruskin to friends. She copied some of his works.

After their return to London, she left Ruskin, nominally to visit her family. She sent back her wedding ring with a note announcing her intention to file for an annulment. With the support of her family and a number of influential friends, she successfully pursued the case, causing a major public scandal, and their marriage was annulled on the grounds of ‘incurable impotency’ in 1854.

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In 1855, she married John Millais and eventually bore him eight children: Everett, born in 1856; George, born in 1857; Effie, born in 1858; Mary, born in 1860; Alice, born in 1862; Geoffroy, born in 1863; John in 1865; and Sophie in 1868. Their youngest son, John Guille Millais, was a notable bird artist and gardener. She also modelled for a number of her husband’s works, notably Peace Concluded (1856), which idealises her as an icon of beauty and fertility.

When Ruskin later sought to become engaged to a teenage girl, Rose La Touche, Rose’s parents were concerned. They wrote to Gray to ask about the marriage; she replied by describing Ruskin as an oppressive husband. The engagement was broken off.

After his marriage, Millais began to paint in a broader style, which Ruskin condemned as a “catastrophe”. Marriage had given him a large family to support, and it is claimed[who?] that his wife encouraged him to churn out popular works for financial gain and to maintain her busy social life. However, there is no evidence that she consciously pressured him to do so, though she was an effective manager of his career and often collaborated with him in choosing subjects. Her journal indicates her high regard for her husband’s art, and his works are still recognisably Pre-Raphaelite in style several years after his marriage.

However, Millais eventually abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite obsession with detail and began to paint in a looser style which produced more paintings for the time and effort. Many paintings were inspired by his family life with his wife, often using his children and grandchildren as models. Millais also used his sister-in-law, Sophy Gray, then in her early teens, as the basis of some striking images in the mid to late 1850s, provoking suggestions of a mutual infatuation. The annulment from Ruskin barred her from events at which Queen Victoria was present. Both she and her husband were considerably bothered, as she had been socially very active, although many in society were still prepared to receive her and to press her case sympathetically. Eventually, when Millais was dying, the Queen relented through the intervention of her daughter Princess Louise, allowing Gray to attend an official function. Sixteen months after Millais’ death, Effie died at Bowerswell on 23 December 1897[ and was buried in Kinnoull churchyard, Perth, which is depicted in Millais’s painting The Vale of Rest.

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John Ruskin

John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy. His writing styles and literary forms were equally varied. Ruskin penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale. The elaborate style that characterised his earliest writing on art was later superseded by a preference for plainer language designed to communicate his ideas more effectively. In all of his writing, he emphasised the connections between nature, art and society. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.

He was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century, and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation has steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognised as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.

Ruskin first came to widespread attention with the first volume of Modern Painters (1843), an extended essay in defence of the work of J. M. W. Turner in which he argued that the principal role of the artist is “truth to nature”. From the 1850s he championed the Pre-Raphaelites who were influenced by his ideas. His work increasingly focused on social and political issues. Unto This Last (1860, 1862) marked the shift in emphasis. In 1869, Ruskin became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford, where he established the Ruskin School of Drawing. In 1871, he began his monthly “letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain”, published under the title Fors Clavigera (1871–1884). In the course of this complex and deeply personal work, he developed the principles underlying his ideal society. As a result, he founded the Guild of St George, an organisation that endures today.

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