21 May 2007 by Karen
In case you don’t know Millais didn’t paint ‘Bubbles’ to advertise soap; instead he intended the bubbles and the innocence of the child to represent the fragility of life, and the painting as a whole is meant to encourage us to ponder the brevity of our existence. Some people think that Millais wasn’t best pleased when it was used to advertise Pear’s soap, but he’d sold the copyright so there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about it. Others suggest that he was happy with the sale as long as the reproduction was of a suitable quality
‘Bubbles’ actually fits in quite well at the Lady Lever, partly because we’ve a good few Millais’s in the collection (you can explore them in this Millais online feature), but also because of the gallery’s history and links to the soap industry. Lord Leverhulme began buying art, not just Millais’s work, in the late 1880s to use in advertising for his ‘Sunlight Soap’ brand. Pieces like The Wedding Morning, Girl With Dogs, Besieged, His Turn Next, A Dress Rehearsal and The Centre of Attraction were purchased to promote soap, and many a home still has a print, postcard, jigsaw or tea tray depicting one of them.
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