From a young age, John Everett Millais showed a prodigious natural talent for drawing, and his parents groomed him to become an artist. By age nine he had already won two awards for his drawing. He entered the Royal Academy at age eleven--the youngest student ever to be admitted. As he matured, Millais began to reject the Academy's conservative teachings, which held the art of the High Renaissance as the ideal. With his fellow student Dante Gabriel Rossetti and others, Millais formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists dissatisfied with the state of British art. They believed that better models for painting could be found in the artists who preceded Raphael, whose work they considered more true to nature and more honestly crafted, and they painted with meticulous attention to the description of natural detail, at times employing willfully awkward or "naïve" compositions. Looking for new subject matter, Millais drew from the writings of English writers such as William Shakespeare and the Romantic poets.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was short-lived, and Millais soon became a major figure in the art world establishment, eventually receiving knighthood. His colorful images of lovers or pretty children and strong portraits of powerful men were extremely popular with Victorian society.