John Ruskin was keen to go on holiday with John Everett Millais to the Trossachs, partly because he hoped that Millais would paint a theme from Sir Walter Scott's 'Lady of the Lake.'  At the time, it was fashionable for educated tourists to travel to the Trossachs, and quote passages from the poem at places mentioned. The locations proved to be so popular that not only had the New Trossachs Inn (where Millais and the Ruskins stayed briefly) had plans for expansion, but a newer Trossachs Hotel had been built, closer to Lock Katrine/ Black's Guide for 1853 includes various quotes, for those who preferred to take the guide, rather than the book.

Given the break-up of John and Effie's marriage, and her subsequent marriage to John Everett Millais, one might think that the events following the summer would have made the participants feel negatively towards the area. In fact, everyone seemed to be very fond of Brig o' Turk. After their marriage, John Everett Millais and Effie returned, renting the far grander house of the minister for their stay, rather than the school-teacher's cottage. Although it was the source of much gossip, Ruskin continued to be proud of the painting and Millais, even after the break-up of his marriage to Effie. He writes to his friend Lady Trevelyan (19.10.1853): 'any time when you are in Scotland you will be able to find Millais' subject (it is drawn so like).' (Reflections of a Friendship: John Ruskin's Letters to Pauline Trevelyn, 1848 - 1866), edited by Virgina Surtees, London [1979].p. 64.) The proof that the scene is exactly as it is painted is a living proof of his believe in the integrity of the  Pre-Raphaelite landscape:

Every Pre-Raphaelite landscape background is painted to the last touch, in the open air, from the thing itself. Every Pre-Raphaelite figure, however studied in expression, is a true portrait of some living person. Every minute accessory is painted in the same manner. And one of the chief reasons fror the violent oppositionwith which the schools has been attacked by other artists, is the enormous cost of care and labour which such a system demands from those who adopt it, in contradiction to the present slovely and imperfect style.

P 219-220. Lecture, Edinburgh 1853.


For many years, people have assumed or speculated that the spot on which John Ruskin stood in 1853 for his 'John Ruskin at Glenfinlas' painting by John Everett Millais, had been lost forever, submerged because of the damn built in the 1960's. In 1994, however,  in a wonderful  moment of practical research. Alistair Grieve (University of East Anglia) went to Brig o' Turk, walked up the stream, and found the spot. It proved to be identical to the details in Millais' painting, as well as the rock on the opposite bank being identical to the sketch of the rock by Ruskin.

Alistair Grieve provides a concise background to the Scottish holiday of the Ruskins and the Millais' (for part of the holiday, William Millais was also part of the party) in his essay, "Ruskin and Millais at Glenfinlas," first published in The Burlington Magazine, April 1996,  pp 228 - 234.

photograph: Glenfinlas, 1994 (copyright Alistair Greive and Ian Mills)
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