A fresh look at Victorian society as seen through the eyes of an early defender of women's rights, Effie Gray.
Victoria & Albert Museum curator Cooper (Pre-Raphaelite Art in the Victoria & Albert Museum, 2003, etc.) works from Effie’s previously unknown personal correspondence, which the author gained access to when Sir Geoffrey Millais lent thousands of her brown-paper wrapped letters to London's Tate Gallery in 2009. Combining biography with a social history of the period, Cooper tells Effie's story of her marriage to John Ruskin and its annulment and her subsequent marriage to the artist John Everett Millais, one of Ruskin's student admirers in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which shared Ruskin's admiration for medievalism. These ideas influenced the Victorian approach to art and architecture and the Gothic revival in church and government buildings. The narrative of Effie's liberation from the bondage of her first marriage and her husband's cruel and abusive conduct is a suspenseful tale involving intrigue and close planning; nothing was left to chance. With the help of Lady Easterly, wife of the head of the Royal Academy, she was at last free to marry Millais, who became head of the Academy before his death in 1896.
A refreshing re-examination of interesting questions about art, nature and life beyond the bounds of Victoria's England.