Kinnoull Aisle and Monument – Dundee Road – The Aisle is home to one of the earliest articles of funery art in Scotland, an intricate stone monument to the 1st Earl of Kinnoull (erected in 1635). The Earl was a courtier, Kings Chancellor, industrialist and politician and the monument reflects all these aspects of his life. The aisle is all that remains of the 16th century kirk that once stood on this site; the church congregation moved to a new church in the 1830s, the present day Kinnoull Parish Church. The graveyard is well worth a visit and inspection. Consisting as it does of many 17th and 18th century tombstones, including that of the ferrymen who worked the River Tay crossing between 1621 and 1772. The graveyard is also the resting place of “Euphemia (Effie) Chalmers Gray *1828-97) the wife of the critic John Ruskin who later left her husband to marry his protégé, the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. This famous Victorian “love triangle” has been dramatised in several plays and an opera.
Effie was born in Perth, Scotland. Her family knew Ruskin’s father, who encouraged a match between them. In 1842 Ruskin wrote the fantasy novel The King of the Golden River for Effie. After their marriage they traveled to Venice where Ruskin was researching his book The Stones of Venice. However their different temperaments soon caused problems, with Effie coming to feel oppressed by Ruskin’s dogmatic personality. When she met Millais five years later Effie was still a virgin, as Ruskin had persistently put off consummating the marriage. She became close to Millais when he accompanied the couple on a trip to Scotland in order to paint Ruskin’s portrait according to the critic’s artistic principles. She modeled for Millais’ painting The Order of Release, in which she was depicted as the loyal wife of a Scottish rebel who has secured his release from prison. As Millais painted Effie they fell in love. Effie left Ruskin and she filed for an annulment, causing a major public scandal. In 1855, after her marriage to Ruskin was annulled, Effie and John Millais married. During the marriage she bore Millais eight children. She also modeled for a number of his works, notably Peace Concluded (1856), which idealises her as an icon of beauty and fertility.
When Ruskin later became engaged to a teenage girl, Rose la Touche, Rose’s concerned mother wrote to Effie, who replied by describing Ruskin as an oppressive husband. There is no reason to doubt Effie’s sincerity, but her intervention broke up the engagement, probably contributing to Ruskin’s later mental breakdown.
After his marriage, Millais began to paint in a broader style, which Ruskin condemned as a “catastrophe”. Marriage had given him a large family to support, and it is claimed that Effie encouraged him to churn out popular works for financial gain and to maintain her busy social life. However, there is no evidence that Effie consciously pressured him to do so. Effie’s journal indicates her high regard for her husband’s art, and his works are still recognisably Pre-Raphaelite in style several years after his marriage. Whatever the cause, Millais eventually abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite obsession with detail and began to paint in a looser style which produced more paintings for the time and effort. Many were inspired by his family life with Effie, often using his children and grandchildren as models.
For ten years from 1881, Millais and Effie rented Birnam Hall near Murthly Castle; several paintings were produced of scenes in the vicinity.
The annulment barred Effie from some social functions. She was not allowed in the presence of the queen, so if the queen was present at a party then Effie was not invited. Prior to the annulment, she had been socially very active and this really bothered her. Eventually, when Millais was dying, the queen relented, allowing Effie to attend a royal function.
Effie died a few months after her husband. She is buried in Kinnoull churchyard, Perth, which is depicted in Millais’s painting The Vale of Rest.
Effie’s marriage to Ruskin and her romance with Millais have been dramatised on many occasions:
•The Love of John Ruskin (1912) a silent movie about Ruskin, Effie and Millais.
•The Passion of John Ruskin (1994), a film directed by Alex Chappel, starring Mark McKinney (Ruskin) and Neve Campbell (Effie).
•”Modern Painters” (opera) (1995) an opera about Ruskin, Effie and Millais. The Countess, a play written by Gregory Murphy about the couple.
•The Order of Release A radio play by Robin Brooks about Ruskin, Effie and Millais (1998)
Millais painted 21 large landscapes in Scotland and divided himself annually between London and Perthshire in autumn/winter. Perth Museum and Art Gallery is in possession of two pictures by Millais. In 1931 the museum was gifted the bird skin collection of John Guille Millais (the artist’s son). This collection consists of 1350 specimens in eight cabinets. These cabinets appear in a painting by Millais; The Ornithologist, which is housed at Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.
Favourite spots in Perthshire for Millais include Waulkmill (“Flowing to the River” and “Flowing to the Sea”) and Brig o’Turk (where Millais painted Ruskin’s portrait and fell in love with Effie).
Kinnoull Parish Church – Dundee Road – The most important feature of this 19th century Gothic church (designed by William Burn in 1826) are the stained glass windows. One of these windows is by John Millais and was given to the church in 1870 by George Gray of Bowerswell – the west window – consisting of fourteen individual panels each representational of a New Testament parable. In 1930 refurbishment of the church made it some what more roomy by removing the gallery and replacing pews and pulpit (in Austrian oak). In 2006 further renovation continued and the Millais window is due for reinstating in October of that year.
Bowerswell House – Bowerswell Road – Dating from 1847 this Italianate villa with a three storey entrance tower was designed by Andrew Helton Junior. It was home to the Gray family and is connected with the lives of Effie Gray, John Millais and John Ruskin (see section on Kinnoull Aisle and Monument). Since 1946, it has been a retirement home – the conversion to which was funded by the people of Perth as a memorial to World War II. Of note are the prints of artworks by John Millais and photographs of buildings designed by Andrew Helton Junior.
St. Mary’s Monastery – Hatton Road – This Gothic style building was constructed between 1868 and 1870 under the direction of Andrew Halton and was the first Catholic Monastery built in Scotland after the Reformation. It initially was part of the Redemptorist Order (founded in naples in 1696) and is latterly St. Mary’s Redemptorist Institute of Spirituality – used for retreats and missions. It is about to undergo major repair works.