Forever Blowing Bubbles

bubbles Sir John Everett MillaisStill slightly on the football theme as Liverpool are facing West Ham on Saturday…

The famous painting Bubbles – showing a young boy blowing bubbles through a clay pipe – is going on display later this month at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

Bubbles will be forever linked with washing and cleanliness because it was used to advertise Pears’ soap. Owners of the painting Unilever has granted the Lady Lever a long-term loan.

In many people’s minds the painting is also associated with the song I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, anthem of Cup Finalists West Ham FC since the 1920s when the song was a hit.

Painted by Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir John Everett Millais in 1886 and his best-known work, Bubbles was originally called A Child’s World. It shows the artist’s grandson William James dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy-style velvet costume with a ruffled collar.

The painting was bought by A & F Pears and the managing director, Thomas Barrett, turned it into an advertisement by adding a bar of soap in the foreground. It was a brilliant masterstroke and the painting is today still associated with the product.

Lever Brothers acquired A & F Pears in 1914 and subsequently the company became part of the Unilever Group. Pears was retained as a separate brand and Unilever kept Bubbles at its global headquarters on the banks of the Thames. It was until recently on loan to the Royal Academy in London. There is no record of the painting ever being previously on display at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

Julian Treuherz, National Museums Liverpool keeper of galleries, says: “Millais was one of Lord Leverhulme’s favourite artists so it is wonderful to be able to exhibit Bubbles with other Millais masterpieces at the Lady Lever. We know it will be a big hit with our visitors.

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