Wehnert’s art was superseded by the styles of the 1860s. Nevertheless – and perhaps surprisingly – he had a considerable influence on at least two of the outstanding designers of the period: John Everett Millais and Arthur Boyd Houghton.

Wehnert’s designs of naughty children in More Fun (1864) must surely have been an influence on Houghton’s representation of the same subject-matter in Home Thoughts and Home Scenes (1865); indeed, Wehnert’s unblinking vision of childhood cruelty finds a distinct echo in Houghton’s imagery, which reads almost as homage to Wehnert’s strange designs.

Wehnert’s store of motifs also finds expression in the art of Millais. Wehnert was Millais’s informal tutor during his time on Jersey, so it is perhaps unsurprising to find that the younger’s artist’s work embodies some of the interests of the older one. There is a strong resemblance, for example, between the intimate embraces in Wehnert’s illustrations for Maceroni’s Magic Words (1851) and Millais’s treatment of family drama in Trollope’s Framley Parsonage (1861).

Left: Wehnert's untitled chromolithograph. Right: Millias's Frontispiece to Collins's No Name. [Click on these images to enlarge them.]

The image of a female character in Magic Words (facing p.39) looking through a window finds another echo in Millais’s showing of Magdalene Vanstone in the frontispiece to Collins’s No Name (1864). Millais’s illustration is tense and dramatic where Wehnert’s is not, but the the compositions are clearly linked.

Left: Wehnert's Madeline praying. Right: Millais's illustration for Rosa Mulholland’s ‘Irene.

We might also note, finally, how Madeline’s praying in The Eve of St Agnes (p. 19) is recreated in Millais’s image of Rosa Mulholland’s ‘Irene’ in The Cornhill Magazine (1862, facing p. 478). Julia Thomas has noted this similarity as part of a shared iconography of images, but the relationship between these designs is far more direct than familial sharing. Largely forgotten, Wehnert’s art lives on in his student’s more famous designs.

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Last modified 19 October 2012