Louise Jopling by Millais

GALLERY ACQUIRES MILLAIS MASTERPIECE

LOUISE JOPLING (1843-1933)
By Sir John Everett Millais, signed and dated, 1879
Oil on canvas, 1250 x 760mm

The National Portrait Gallery is delighted to have 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 19th 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 amongst 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 Louise Goode, the fifth child of a Manchester railway contractor, Jopling studied art in Paris in the mid 1860s and married the watercolourist 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 sixteen. 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 months later. Millais's portraiture was the subject of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 1999.

Jacob Simon, Chief Curator of the National Portrait Gallery, said : "This is one of Millais's finest portraits and shows a fascinating and remarkable woman. We are enormously grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund for enabling us to make this major addition to the Gallery's collection."

Anthea Case, Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said : "The Heritage Lottery Fund is always delighted to support the acquisition of a painting that helps people to understand a certain historical period. Louise Jopling was an exceptional woman, unusual for her time in the fact that she was a professional artist, writer and campaigning feminist. This fascinating portrait will make a wonderful addition to the National Portrait Gallery's extensive collection and will give visitors an insight into the life of a 19th-century professional working woman."

David Barrie, Director of the National Arts Collections Fund, said : " Millais's strikingly assertive portrait of Louise Jopling reveals the artist at the height of his powers. Jopling's sense of independence, confidence and glamour are perfectly captured in an image which makes a brilliant addition to the National Portrait Gallery's collection."

Louise Jopling by Sir John Everett Millais is on display in Room 28.

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For further press information please contact:
Hazel Sutherland, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery
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