Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The Blind Girl, by John Everett Millais
I think this picture is one of the best paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite era.
A blind girl sits with her younger sister in open country. In the blind girl's lap sits the accordion with which she provides a livng for them both.
The real pathos of the picture is the wondeful beauty of the landscape. The girl is unable to see any of it. She is unable even to see the moth upon her shawl.
There is a great intimacy between the two sisters. The younger one is looking out at the landscape. The blind girl seems to me in a moment of reflection. Perhaps her sister is telling her what she can see and she is trying to imagine it.
The two girls are dependant on each other. The elder depends on the younger to be her guide. The younger depends upon her sister's skill with the accordion to meet her needs.
Some critics have used the picture to talk about the social issues this picture higlights. In those days, there was little provision from the government to help disabled people. However, I think this approach to art destroys our appreciation of the picture itself. Once we move away from the picture to talk about social issues and politics, we are neglecting the aesthetic vision presented by the artist.
Though we may feel for the hardship suffered by the two girls; it is an immensely beautiful image. The warmth of the sunshine over the landscape illuminates that beauty to the viewer. One almost desires to get lost in the moment of tranquility, for all the sorrow that surrounds it.