Portrait Artist Of The Past: May

Thank you to everyone that entered April’s competition to paint the composer, Samuel Coleridge Taylor. It’s always so enjoyable to look through the various interpretations and a privilege to be involved in selecting a winner. Judith Booth’s wonderful portrait of Samuel captured his character with distinction and all three judges loved her use of colour.

I’m delighted to say that Camden Council have accepted Judith’s portrait as a donation into their archives and it may be shown at forthcoming exhibitions. Thank you Judith for the kind donation.

For May’s challenge, we would like you to create a portrait of Elizabeth Greeley “Lily” Merrill Millet (1855-1931) after a work by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). It’s a sensitive portrayal that captures Lily leaning forward with arms crossed - perhaps a little vulnerable? How do you read her expression?

Mrs Frank Millet

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Lily Millet nee Merrill was born in Yarmouth, Maine, USA and little is known about her. In 1879, she married the painter and writer Francis Davis Millet (1848-1912) in Montmartre, Paris and the couple established their family home in Worcestershire, England.

Francis (Frank) Millet was a talented and well-connected artist who knew Sargent as an acquaintance. He also knew the writer Mark Twain who attended the couple’s wedding as Frank’s best man.

It seems that Lily spent quite a bit of time alone at their Worcestershire home as Frank would often travel back to the US. In 1910, he began living with his close friend Archibald Butt at a property in Washington DC. The pair were known for their star-studded parties and many speculated about the nature of their relationship. It must've been such a difficult time when the rumour mill was in full force.

In 1912, Frank and Archibald boarded the RMS Titanic at Cherbourg, France, and headed for New York City. Frank was last seen assisting women and children into lifeboats before they both sadly drowned when the ship sank. Lily inherited the estate and remained in the UK until her death in 1932.

It's such an interesting story and it deserves it's own movie. The more I discover, the deeper the level of intrigue.

Competition Rules: Every month, we’re asking artists to create a version of our chosen portrait in their own style. It should be an interpretation, rather than a faithful reproduction, so do express yourself.

To enter, simply post your submission on Instagram and tag it with #portraitartistofthepast. Please do so by the last day of each month. We’ll then select a winner and showcase their entry on our website and social media. Every winning portrait will also be displayed for one month in our gallery (once open in June).

May’s competition will run from the 3rd of May to the 31st of May, with the winner being announced before the 3rd of June.

Good luck!

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