Портрет – реалистичный жанр, изображающий существующего в действительности человека или группу людей. Портрет - во французском прочтении - portrait, от старофранцузского portraire — «воспроизводить что-либо черта в черту». Еще одна грань названия портрет кроется в устаревшем слове «парсуна» — от лат. persona — «личность; особа». Читать дальшеШекспира, открывающий этот текст, считался прижизненным, но в 2005-м и его признали подделкой, написанной через пару веков после смерти гения. Зато представить, как выглядели герои Шекспира, нетрудно: он подробно их описал, а многочисленные иллюстраторы любовно изобразили.
Arthive presents ten most interesting artists who have left portraits of Shakespearean characters.
John Everett Millais
Perhaps, artist love Ophelia most of all the Shakespearean heroines. And the most famous Ophelia in the visual arts was certainly painted by Millais. It is curious that, depicting the mournful plot about the death of Hamlet’s beloved on his canvas, the artist was only grieving about one thing: his inconveniences in the open air. However, he talks about them in English, witty and hilarious:
“I sit tailor-fashion under an umbrella throwing a shadow scarcely larger than a halfpenny for eleven hours, with a child's mug within reach to satisfy my thirst from the running stream beside me. I am threatened with a notice to appear before a magistrate for trespassing in a field and destroying the hay; likewise by the admission of a bull in the same field after the said hay be cut; am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water, and becoming intimate with the feelings of Ophelia when that lady sank to muddy death, together with the (less likely) total disappearance, through the voracity of the flies. There are two swans who not a little add to my misery by persisting in watching me from the exact spot I wish to paint, occasionally destroying every water-weed within their reach.”
Nature, painted in such a botanically exact way, is almost more important than the main character in Ophelia by Millais. Therefore, this picture is also one of the most famous landscapes in world painting. And one of the most cited paintings. Do you recognize Ophelia on the posters for Lars von Trier’s film Melancholy?
As you might guess, this Ophelia doesn’t have any long history of creation. It is only worth noting the fact that the father of Russian futurism tried on the role of a primitivist artist here.
In case you are not thrilled, here are some other incarnations of the Shakespeare’s heroine: from Delacroix to Vrubel.
John William Waterhouse
The bonus collection of Ophelias given above may be supplemented with the works of another Pre-Raphaelite, John Waterhouse: he also had tender feelings for Hamlet’s beloved — he painted her all his life.
In his collection of Shakespeare’s images, there are also young Juliet and Miranda, the heroine of The Tempest play, a red-haired one, as befits the Pre-Raphaelites:
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she...
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
(Romeo to Juliet)
The main ladies’ man among Russian artists, Konstantin Makovsky could not ignore Shakespeare’s heroines. He also has Ophelia depicted as a Russian beauty (in triplicate), as well as Juliet.
This Italian has depicted countless scenes of Romeo and Juliet, not all of the canvases have even come down to us. They were sold well, and indignation about excessive, unprecedented sensuality only fuelled the interest of the public. One picture has gone down in history — with Juliet in a blue dress, titled The Kiss.
We do not see the faces of the heroes, all attention is focused on the action for which they are gathered.
This kiss is known not only in painting, but also in cinema — directors like to capture characters in each other’s arms in this way. Franco Zeffirelli did the same in his Romeo and Juliet.
Of course, this famous picture also became an excellent cause for jokes.
1.2. The cat or not the cat — that is the question...
Dalí made a series of illustrations for Romeo and Juliet in 1975. The book was only published in 999 copies, moreover, their sets of illustrations differed — 35 versions of the book were made.
And here is how Dalí’s fantasies on the theme of Romeo and Juliet looked like in 1942:
Another famous visionary, William Blake, was not indifferent to the genius of Shakespeare. As an illustrator, he surely became famous primarily for his works on Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost, but the heroes of Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are charming.
Believe it or not, this is Klimt. This image is taken from the ceiling of the Vienna Burgtheater, which he painted with his brother at the beginning of his career. The fresco depicts Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre performing Romeo and Juliet.
Californian Christensen, one of the most recognizable and popular modern illustrators, whose style is called positive surrealism, says: “If I took all my best artistic qualities and exaggerated them to become some sort of creative superhero, I like to think I’d be a lot like Shakespeare.”
The fans of both Shakespeare and Christensen, have only one complaint about the Shakespearean Fantasy: why the heroes and plots of all his 38 plays are not presented on the magical island?! The artist only laughs it off: “They’re all there — just go around the island and look from the other side!”
The Fantasy is intended not only to please the eye, but also to train attention. First, try to identify all the heroes without a hint (which we prudently provide you with below). Secondly, keep in mind that both the Fantasy and the other Christensen’s work dedicated to Shakespeare, All The World’s A Stage, were published, among other things, in the form of puzzles. By the way, at the second work, Christensen portrayed himself as Caesar.
1.2. James Christensen. All The World’s A Stage
Christensen’s crowded illustrations evoke not only Bruegel and Bosch, but also his Ukrainian colleague illustrator, the favourite artist of Paolo Coelho and J. K. Rowling, Vladyslav Yerko. You are probably familiar with his breathtaking work from the books The Snow Queen and Tales of the Foggy Albion. And in 2008, Yerko illustrated the Ukrainian edition of Hamlet.
It seems that both reading and playing the play would take less time than examining these illustrations. Whereas we only showed a part of them. In 2019, mymodernmet interviewed the creator of an online archive of Victorian artists who drew their works on Shakespeare’s plays; in the public domain, there are about 3,000 illustrations! And this is just a fraction of the vast visual world of the great plays.