Sir John Everett Millais
British, 1829 - 1896
The Blind Girl
This painting shows two beggar girls resting after a rain shower in the countryside, one of whom is unable to see the beauty of the rainbow behind her. The girls' poverty is shown by their clothes and by the concertina, used for begging, resting on the lap of the blind girl.
Millais began this painting in the autumn of 1854 at Winchelsea in Sussex, and completed it two years later near his home in Perthshire, Scotland. The Liverpool Academy in 1857 awarded it the annual prize.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti found it 'one of the most touching and perfect things I know'. Ruskin described it thus: 'The common is a fairly spacious bit of ragged pasture, and at the side of the public road passing over it the blind girl has sat down to rest awhile. She is a simple beggar, not a poetical or vicious one, a girl of eighteen or twenty, extremely plain-featured, but healthy, and just now resting, not because she is much tired but because the sun has but this moment come out after a shower, and the smell of grass is pleasant.'
The following commentary is taken from the BBC's online only exhibition 'Painting the Weather':
'Soaking up the sun after a storm, the rosy-cheeked blind girl is oblivious to the glorious double rainbow. The beauty around her highlights the pathos of her situation. She feels the sun on her face and the tuft of grass in her hand but cannot see them. Her draped shawl makes her look like a Madonna and implies her virtue, while the rainbow suggests God's care, even for the most vulnerable. In a double rainbow the colour sequence of the second rainbow is reversed. Millais originally got this detail wrong but later corrected it, making sure he was paid for his trouble.'
Quoted from Painting the Weather (BBC Online Exhibition).
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