alliday entered the Pre-Raphaelite circle though his friendship with John Everett Millais, who were contact with each other from about 1853. Millais, in turn, introduced him to his great friends William Holman Hunt and John Leech. Millais, Leech, and Halliday shared a passion for fox hunting and from about 1854 onwards they kept hunters at a stable in Leicestershire. Halliday proved not to be a natural horseman and, although brave enough, was always coming to grief.
His exploits on the hunting field proved to be the inspiration for Leech’s Punch cartoons “The Adventures of Mr. Tom Noddy.’ Frith in his book on Leech recalled: “I was not aware that Tom Noddy had a prototype until I was informed by my old friend, Mr Holman Hunt, in a paper of Leech reminiscences, originally intended for this memoir, that Mike Halliday, a man I knew well forty years ago, was the original Tom Noddy. Halliday’s figure was intended for an ordinary-sized man, but when Nature had produced his head and shoulders she seemed to have changed her intention, and the rest of his figure was that of a diminutive form, a full foot shorter altogether than an ordinary middle-sized man. When I first became acquainted with Halliday he was a clerk in the House of Lords. ‘He then’, says Holman Hunt, ‘took to poetry, to love that never found its earthly close, and to our art - for he found time for all… Halliday’s face was a very plain one, but totally unlike that of Tom Noddy: his hair was pale yellow, ‘a vapoury moustache joining a soft beard, long but sparse whiskers;’ he was slightly lame, and altogether an elf-like quaintness in his appearance made him quite a remarkable little figure… Leech, in speaking of Halliday at a party, of which Holman Hunt made one, said: ‘Mike is a mine of resource to me. Whenever I am in difficulties I can remember something of him that it is possible to turn into a ‘subject’; and, he added earnestly, ‘I do hope he never recognises the resemblance, for I often put some point to prevent recognition.’ The surprise at this innocence made the whole table burst into laughter, but in undeceiving Leech we were able to assure him that Halliday was by no means pained by the darts which had struck him; that he wore them proudly as decorations, and so disarmed the ill-nature that might be disposed to take advantage of the chance. He often achieved this by drawing the attention of his visitors to the last addition to his gallery of Punch portraits, exhibited on the walls of his studio. It must have been from some peculiarity of dress or manner, to which Halliday’s attention was called by ‘a candid friend’, that he discovered that, in drawing Tom Noddy, Leech ‘had him in his eye’; for, as I said before, his face was as unlike that of Tom Noddy as Leech’s own face was unlike the round, good-humoured physiognomy of Mr. Briggs” (Frith, II, 166-169). Other friends also commented on Halliday’s appearance and personality. Ford Madox Brown wrote in his diary for May 21, 1855: “In the evening the meeting [to discuss the possibility of an exhibition independent of the Royal Academy]. Halliday a sinecurist and gent; swell and hunchback and artist combined; known chiefly as a friend of Millais and Hunt. Not at all bashful.” (Surtees, Madox Brown, 138). In addition to fox hunting Halliday and Millais frequently hunted and fished together. In 1861 Halliday accompanied Millais on a holiday to Sunderlandshire to shoot game birds and to fish and in the autumn of 1862 they were back in Scotland near Tain to again fish and hunt. Halliday and Millais also frequently painted together. In August 1854, for instance, Halliday accompanied Millais to Winchelsea in Sussex where Millais worked on backgrounds for The Blind Girl and L ‘Enfant du Régiment [The Random Shot] while Halliday worked on his The Measure for the Wedding Ring, assisted by Millais in painting the background.
Halliday also proved the great confidant to whom Millais could pour out his troubles after Millais fell in love with Effie Ruskin. In a letter of May 5, 1854 from Halliday to Holman Hunt in the Holy Land, Halliday writes: “I have known the whole circumstances all along but my mouth has been closed, Millais having made a confidant of me in the agony of his mind for I had guessed nearly the whole from what I had seen in Scotland” (Lutyens, Millais, 93). Halliday had come up to Scotland in October 1853 to visit Millais when he was painting Ruskin’s portrait at Glenfinlas and observed first hand that Millais had fallen in love with Effie. Hunt reported “Mike Halliday, returning from Scotland, reported that Millais on occasions had openly remarked to Ruskin upon his want of display of interest in the occupations and entertainments of Mrs. Ruskin. Remonstrances grew into complaint, and gradually the guest found himself championing the lady against her legal lord and master. It was in the mood thus engendered that Millais had parted with the pair in December 1853” (Hunt. Pre-Raphaelitism, II, 93). After the Ruskins returned to London, Halliday was entertained at dinner parties at Herne Hill by Effie, enabling him to report back news of her to Millais. Millais himself had never seen Effie after November 10, 1853, the evening Millais left Edinburgh, and had only seen John who was continuing to sit for his portrait. Effie was granted an annulment from her marriage to Ruskin on July 15, 1854. In a letter from Millais to Effie Ruskin of July 26, 1854 he writes: “Good little Halliday was the only person I could get a word from about you, and I used to bore him to death after he had seen you – such awful nights I used to have setting [sic] with him in in his gloomy chambers hearing everything about you and the people dining at Herne Hill” (Lutyens, Millais, 237).
Halliday’s other great friendship within the Pre-Raphaelite circle was with Holman Hunt. Hunt in his book on Pre-Raphaelitism recalled how he and Halliday had hooked up in 1856 when Hunt was returning from his trip to the Holy Land and Halliday was coming back from the Crimea: “I had met my friend Mike Halliday at Pera coming back from the Crimea, and we travelled together to Paris… I had been away over two years… It was now the beginning of February 1856. Halliday and I took a house together in Pimlico, in which we each found a studio, and arranged another in an upper room for Martineau (II, 83, 85). William Michael Rossetti, in a letter to William Bell Scott of April 14, 1856, described a visit to the house in Claverton Street, Pimlico, where Hunt, R. B. Martineau and Halliday were then living. Rossetti wrote: “Joined with him [Hunt] there are Halliday and Martineau, whom you may have heard of, or possibly seen; the latter an artist, the former something between artist and amateur. Both go in for Praeraphaelitism, and both look up to Hunt with a genuine reverence and affection.” (Peattie, Letters, 64). In early 1857 the trio moved to Torr Villa, Camden Hill. Halliday obviously proved to be a favourable friend and travel companion to his Pre-Raphaelite compatriots. Hunt in a letter of March 1854 to Millais writes: “I wish we could meet abroad and travel and work together for a good while, with occasionally another or two for companions (Halliday for one)” (Hunt, I, 380). Because of their friendships Halliday had ample opportunities to observe both Hunt and Millais painting and he adopted their painting methods for his own works.
Halliday was also on good terms with the Rossetti brothers, although not as close as his friendship with Millais and Hunt. D. G. Rossetti was not always complimentary on Halliday’s paintings, however, commenting on Halliday’s 1856 submissions to the Royal Academy in a letter to Ford Madox Brown of March 19, 1856, “What horrors those things of Halliday’s! I couldn’t hide my opinions.”(Fredeman, Letters, II, letter 56.16, 108). Rossetti’s opinion of Halliday’s work was not always derogatory, however, and he generally considered his work very satisfactory considering Halliday was an amateur artist. In a letter of February 4, 1869 to his brother William Michael he suggested Halliday be included in the list of possible illustrators for one of the series of Moxon’s Popular Poets currently being edited by William. There is no doubt that Dante Gabriel was greatly saddened by Haliday’s death. In a letter to James Smetham of June 21, 1869 Rossetti writes: “I think you have met little Mike Halliday here – a fine manly fellow in every point of character, & possessed of most varied talents. He is suddenly dead, which has grieved me very much, as he was an old and very valued friend of mine” (Fredeman, Letters, II, letter 69.71, 191) With Halliday’s death coming soon after the death of his friend R. B. Martineau both were greatly mourned by their friends within the Pre-Raphaelite circle.
Halliday also appears to have done some picture dealing nonprofessionally among his professional acquaintances, finding buyers for works by his Pre-Raphaelite friends. Madox Brown in his diary for March 16, 1857 mentions: “Yesterday, Burnett [John Burnett], a young distiller who buys pictures, called to see the Christ & Peter sent by Halliday it seems, who is therefore a brick although somewhat distorted in the baking” (Surtees, Madox Brown, 194). In July 1867 Halliday introduced the wealthy brewer Charles P. Matthews to D. G. Rossetti. Matthews commissioned for 1500 guineas an oil painting of Aspecta Medusa (Perseus showing the Gorgon’s head reflected in the water to Andromeda) . Unfortunately this commission eventually fell through after Matthews expressed reservations about the portrayal of the severed head of Medusa. Matthews was a major collector who owned important Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Millais, Hunt, and Simeon Solomon. Halliday was well liked by members of the wider Pre-Raphaelite circle. George Price Boyce mentions Halliday a number of times in his diary. On June 10, 1858 he records a meeting attended by Halliday, W. Holman Hunt, Henry Wallis, R. B. Marineau, Frederick Barwell, Val Prinsep, Edward Burne-Jones, John Brett, Augustus Egg, F. G. Stephens, and J. R. S. Stanhope to discuss throwing support behind the Liverpool Academy. (Surtees, Boyce, 24). On August 2, 1865 he records “Called on Holliday [sic]. Argenta [Augusta] Jones sitting to him. She has a good head and splendid hair. She is like Coleridge in the face” (Surtees, Boyce, 42). Augusta Jones was a popular model with the Pre-Raphaelites at this time, especially Burne-Jones.
Frith, William Powell. John Leech, His Life and Work. 2 Vols. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1891.
Hunt, William Holman. Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 2 Vols. London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1905.
Lutyens, Mary. Millais & The Ruskins. London: John Murray, 1967.
Peattie, Roger M. Ed. Selected Letters of William Michael Rossetti. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990.
Surtees, Virginia Ed. The Diary of Ford Madox Brown. New Havven and London: Yale University Press, 1981.
Surtees, Virginia Ed. The Diaries of George Price Boyce. Norwich: Real World, 1980.
Waters, William and Alastair Carew-Cox. Angels & Icons. Pre-Raphaelite Stained Glass 1850-1870. Abbots Morton: Seraphim Press, 2012.
Last modified 20 February 2022