Louise Jane Jopling (née Goode, later Rowe)
2 of 23 portraits on display in Room 28 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Extended catalogue entry
Louise Jane Jopling (née Goode, later Rowe)
by Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
Oil on canvas, 1879
48 7/8 in. x 30 1/8 in. (1240 mm x 765 mm)
Click on the links below to find out more:
Inscriptionback to top
Signed with monogram over date, lower left: ‘JEM / 1879’.
On stretcher, inscr. in paint on top bar: ‘A. [?]O.S.’ and some pencil marks;
printed labels on stretcher bars:
(a) ‘James Bourlet & Sons / 17 & 18 Nassau Street / London’ and stamped: ‘A90968’;
(b) ‘Royal Academy Sir John Everett Millais exh. 1967’ and inscr. ‘no.25 /
owner: L.E. Jopling’;
(c) ‘Peter Nahum / 5 Ryder Street / London SW1Y 6PY’.
On frame, cartouche label bottom centre inscr: ‘MRS. JOPLING-ROWE / SIR JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS, R.A. / 1829–1896 / Lent by Mr. Lindsay Millais Jopling’;
printed label on back: ‘Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 3’ and inscr: ‘J.L. Jopling c/o Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’.
Printed labels on frame backboard:
(a) Smithsonian ‘Great Britons’ exhibition, inscr. ‘GB25’;
(b) Tate Britain, 26/9/07 exhibition, inscr. ‘118 / 26/8/07’.
This portraitback to top
The sitting that produced this portrait was informal, an act of long-established friendship. Joseph Middleton Jopling had married Louise Romer in 1874 and ‘for years after that Mr and Mrs Jopling were constant visitors at Cromwell Place and Palace Gate, and many were the pleasant evenings we had when Joe and his clever wife dined with us en famille’, Millais’s son later recalled.  In the late 1870s John Everett Millais was living in Palace Gate, Kensington. He had a thriving practice, with sitters who had recently included Thomas Carlyle (1877), Lillie Langtry (1878) and Gladstone (1879); his fees were famously high. Joseph Jopling was a successful but not particularly distinguished watercolourist, a friend since the 1860s. Louise, on the other hand, though younger, was a professional in her own right, more on a par with Millais, and she clearly stimulated him. In 1875 the Joplings made ‘Jack’ Millais a godfather to their son Lindsay Millais, and two years later he painted NPG 6612 – a generous gesture from one so busy. ‘Ah, my godson! I never gave him a cup at his christening, so I’ll give him the “mug” of his mother now,’ he apparently joked. 
There are two accounts of the sitting, both of them by Louise Jopling, the first one provided to Millais’s son and biographer and the second one published in her memoirs Twenty Years of My Life (1925).  The portrait was painted very quickly:
[Millais] painted my portrait in the extraordinary short time of five sittings. In his generous way he wished to divide the credit. ‘Ah it takes a good sitter to make a good portrait. If you had not sat so well, I shouldn’t have made such a good thing of it, but’ – then he would laugh – ‘I nearly killed you, you know!’ For the five consecutive days’ standing had really knocked me up. 
In her memoirs she wrote:
I arrived [at the studio] about 10.30, stood until lunchtime, and then had about another hour after. It took [Millais] exactly five days. But then I sat with all the knowledge of a portrait painter. I knew that the better I sat, the sooner the work would be finished, and, also, the better the portrait would be. And so it turned out, for Millais’ portrait of me is considered to be the finest woman portrait he ever painted. 
Louise Jopling’s account also describes the choice of clothes: ‘We had great discussions as to what I should wear. I had at that time a dress that was universally admired. It was black, with coloured flowers embroidered on it. It was made in Paris.’ She also tells an anecdote to explain the particular quality of her expression:
Of course I naturally made my expression as charming as I possibly could, and on the third day it was just delightful in the portrait […] We commenced talking about other things, and, alas, I forgot to keep on my designedly beautiful expression, for our subject was something that made me feel very indignant, and suddenly Millais said: ‘Oh, we mustn’t go on talking about this!’ and looked doubtfully at me, and doubtfully at the picture. Down I jumped off the model table, and ran to look at it. All its beautiful expression had vanished, and in its place had come the look that I must have had – a defiant, rather hard one. […] Still, perhaps it is as well, for no doubt the face gained in character, and perhaps, to live with, is better than a sugary-sweet expression. 
In the end, all parties were rewarded. ‘I am truly glad I have pleased my old friend,’ Millais wrote to Joe Jopling, for whom the portrait had been painted. ‘I thought you would be satisfied, because it went so comfortably, and I felt at liberty to do exactly what I liked.’ 
There is a French tone to the work. Louise Jopling’s colouring and the brilliant painting of the Parisian outfit recall Manet’s female portraits of the period. In 1878 Millais had made several visits to Paris, exhibiting at the Exposition Universelle and receiving the medal of the Légion d’Honneur. When it came to painting Louise the following year, this exposure to recent French art, the sitter’s feistiness, familiarity and the common professional background inspired the unusually direct and rapid handling. The effect extends to the frame, which is in an early eighteenth-century French style.  Louise would have recognized the references, and it is this subtle understanding between artist and sitter that gives the work its peculiar charge. 
The picture created a stir when it was exhibited in London in 1880. James McNeill Whistler (who had painted a whole-length of Louise Jopling in 1877) declared it ‘superb’. It was shown at six different exhibitions (including Paris in 1882) in its first decade alone, and the need arose for a good-quality reproduction: ‘Many people, my friends especially, advised me to have my portrait by Millais photogravured,’ wrote Jopling. ‘Millais promised to correct the proof, if any corrections were required. By circularizing my friends, I obtained a sufficient number of subscribers to pay the cost of the photogravure, and, thanks to Millais’ supervision, the result was most satisfactory.’ 
Lindsay Millais Jopling – the artist’s godson – presented the portrait to the nation in 1919 (NG 3585). It remained in the public domain for about forty years at a time when High Victorian art was least fashionable, shuttling back and forth between the National Gallery and the Tate, rarely put on display. In the end the ‘conditional’ (and ambiguous) terms of the gift proved too problematic and the picture was returned to the donor in 1958.  Two years later Jopling placed the painting on loan with the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, where it remained until it was sold at Sotheby’s, 22 November 1988 (45), and purchased by R.W. (‘Tiny’) Rowland.
In 1884 Millais took the portrait back to repair some cracks in the paintwork: ‘I have taken out all the cracks and think that it will stand now until we are all dust and ashes,’ he wrote to Joseph Jopling; the general good condition of the work was confirmed by a conservator’s report in 2001. 
Footnotesback to top
1) Millais 1899, vol.1, p.428.
2) Louise Jopling, ‘Recollections of Sir John Millais’ in Millais 1899, vol.1, p.443.
3) Millais 1899, vol.1, pp.443–5; and Jopling 1925, pp.139–41.
4) Millais 1899, vol.1, pp.443–5.
5) Jopling 1925, p.140.
6) ‘I remember so well dressing for my first sitting. My old housekeeper went out early and brought me some lovely carnations’; Jopling 1925, p.139.
7) Jopling 1925, pp.140–41.
8) Jopling 1925, p.142.
9) Oil and water gilt. Judging by the inscription on the cartouche label, the painting was given its present frame when it was presented to the NG in 1919 (see note 13 below).
10) See Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, Paris, 1863, for Manet and modernity.
11) Jopling 1925, p.306.
12) ‘The painting (NG 3585) was given to the National Gallery by Lindsay Millais Jopling in 1919, albeit with a life interest in the work for Mr Jopling and his mother. It was given outright to the Gallery in 1921 on the condition that it was displayed at Trafalgar Square. On 18 March 1925 it was transferred to the Tate. On his return from service in India in 1936, L.M. Jopling wrote to the National Gallery to complain that the work was no longer at Trafalgar Square. In 1937 the picture was consequently returned to the National Gallery and went on display. However, it was once again sent to the Tate in 1953 and when L.M. Jopling discovered this after a visit to the National in 1957, he raised the matter again. On this occasion the Trustees refused to ask for the picture to be returned from the Tate and Jopling demanded that it be returned to him. After seeking advice from the Treasury Solicitor, it was decided by the Tate trustees and the National Gallery to return the painting to Mr Jopling. The painting was initially returned to the National Gallery in 1958 and kept in store until Mr Jopling had found another gallery where it could be hung. In September 1960 the painting was transferred to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford where Jopling had placed it on loan.’ Email from Alan Crookham (NG Archive) to Magda Keaney (NPG), 1 Nov. 2007, NPG RP 6612. For the full correspondence between the Jopling family and NG, see NG Archive, ref. NG14/28/1.
13) Letter from J.E. Millais to J.M. Jopling, 23 Aug. 1884; priv coll (Jopling). Conservator’s report, NPG RP 6612.
Physical descriptionback to top
Three-quarter-length, standing to left, head turned to viewer, hands clasping fan behind back, wearing a fitted black dress embroidered with flowers, posy of flowers on bodice.
Provenanceback to top
Lindsay Millais Jopling; Sotheby’s, 22 Nov. 1988 (45), bt. Mr R.W. Rowland; his widow Josie Rowland; sold by Peter Nahum (The Leicester Galleries Ltd); purchased by NPG with help from Mrs Josie Rowland, the National Art Collections Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2002.
Exhibitionsback to top
Annual Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1880 (49).
Liverpool Autumn Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1880 (75).
Autumn Exhibition, Manchester Corporation Art Gallery, 1885 (403).
Sir J.E. Millais, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1886 (30).
International Exhibition, Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, 1888 (271).
Annual Exhibition, Society of Scottish Artists, Edinburgh, 1893 (223).
Annual Exhibition, Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1893 (92).
Autumn Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1894 (1179).
Exposition internationale de Bruxelles, Brussels, 1897 (157).
Works by the Late Sir John Everett Millais, Royal Academy, London, 1898 (71).
Millais: P.R.B / P.R.A., Royal Academy, London, and Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1967 (96).
The Pre-Raphaelites in Oxford, Isetan Museum of Art, Shinjuki, Tokyo; Museum of Modern Art, Shiga; and Daimaru Museum, Osaka, 1987 (103).
Millais, Tate Britain, London; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; Kitayushu Municipal Museum of Art, Fukuoka; and Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 2007 (118).
The Cult of Beauty, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; and de Young Museum, San Francisco, 2011 (no cat. no.).
Reproductionsback to top
Funnell & Warner 1999, p.187.
Rosenfeld & Smith 2007, p.205.
Denney 2009, p.5.
See this portrait
On display in Room 28 at the National Portrait Gallery