A Flood

Sir John Everett Millais, 8 Jun 1829 - 13 Aug 1896

A Flood

Sir John Everett Millais 8 Jun 1829 - 13 Aug 1896


A rural landscape submerged under water. In the foreground is a baby in its wooden cradle, carried away by the flood. It appears oblivious to its apparent danger and mesmerized by the glistening droplets of water hanging from the branch of a tree overhead and the small birds sheltering there. Sitting on the baby’s floral patchwork coverlet, and peering over the end of the cradle is a black kitten, terrified by its situation and mewing for help. Floating between the head of the cradle and a clump of rushes is a jug. To the left of the composition is a partially submerged haystack, beyond which is a farm house and outbuildings. In the background to the right, a man and woman punt in the direction of the baby across the watery landscape. In his biography of his father, John Guille Millais notes that the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864 was the inspiration for the work. This man-made disaster, caused by a failed dam, killed at least 240 people, but here Millais leaves us with hope that the punting couple will rescue their floating child. The model for the baby was the artist's daughter Sophie - and the kitten too was from his own household.

Display Label

Gallery text panel The Pre-Raphaelites in their Time Britain's first and best-known radical art movement emerged from within the Royal Academy in 1848. Its original members were rebellious art students who were disillusioned with contemporary practice. They looked back to Italian art before Raphael, seeing the pre-1500 period as one of great sincerity. They called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In an age of rapid industrial and urban expansion, Pre-Raphaelite artists like Rossetti, Hunt and Millais, and pioneering design reformers such as William Morris, sought a return to pre-industrial values of art and design in truth to nature and materials, and good workmanship. In addition, the arts of the Middle Ages and Middle East were important sources of stylistic inspiration. The Bible, literature and contemporary life were preferred over subjects derived from classical mythology. The Brotherhood also rejected contrived studio lighting and took canvases outside to paint directly from nature. Although attempting to convey exactly what they saw, they created a heightened reality of dream-like intensity with minute details and bright, dazzling colours. Their art was a new kind of history painting for a new age.

Object Name

A Flood

Creators Name

Sir John Everett Millais

Date Created



framed: 133.8cm x 180.1cm
unframed: 99.3cm x 144.9cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[G7] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 7
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© Manchester Art Gallery

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