John William Waterhouse • Painting, 1910, 101.6×61 cm
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Literary scene
Style of art: The Pre-Raphaelites
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1910
Size: 101.6×61 cm
Artwork in selections: 69 selections
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Description of the artwork «Ophelia»

The image of Ophelia has inspired not only artists. He became the impetus to create a special aestheticization of death character, which Shakespeare described extremely prophetic:

"Her clothes, stretched out, carrying her like a nymph; which time she chanted snatches of songs he sang as if knew not troubles or was born in the element of water; so to last could not, and apparel, hard upivshis, unhappy from the sounds of dragged into the quagmire of death."

Ophelia is no longer just half-witted noblewoman, in love with hamlet, she became a character that regularly occurs in the visual arts, music and literature.

The image of Ophelia in the works of Waterhouse: the traditional perception

The special role of the image of Shakespeare's heroines were played in a creative way Waterhouse, who dedicated her dying minutes of their three works created in 1889, 1894and in 1910. Each "Ophelia"written within a few years is a special character, different appearance of the heroine and inherent artists-romantics symbolism.

On the first picture, reclining on a floral field, Ophelia becomes a part of the landscape, the same lost and helpless flower, like the white daisies in the grass and on her dress. Her face is calm and does not Express nor madness, nor grief.
On the canvas, 1894 Ophelia is depicted sitting on the trunk of the willow in the last moments before his death. Her white girlish dress with a gold pattern comes into contrast with the wild overgrown pond. But the flowers in flowing hair, and a few daisies on his knees heroine fit perfectly into her environment, making like a mermaid. Blooming white roses on the edge of the shore symbolize purity and detachment from the world.

It's not like the other Ophelia was preparing for a voluntary death. They are indifferent, melancholic and brooding. It's hard to see them in typical Waterhouse tragedy and thoughts of suicide, which has repeatedly tried to catch the heroine of the residents of the Danish Kingdom. Ophelia for early Waterhouse is the epitome of fragility, flexibility, and missed opportunities.

The painting is Waterhouse's "Ophelia" 1910: the transformation of the artistic image

On late work before the viewer is presented a completely different Ophelia.
In the foreground of the picture is the heroine in full figure, leaning on the willow tree — a symbol of death in medieval Europe. It extends the branches to the water, as well as Ophelia directed to the water flow. The similarity between a tree and a woman adds a dramatic pleats dresses and special topography of the cortex, which enhance the overall feeling of anxiety.

The image of Ophelia contrasts sharply with the desperate expression on her face. Dress can safely be called bright and festive: it is noble blue color with Golden embroidery on the chest and hem are also decorated with gold. The combination of blue and Golden tells about a noble origin of Ophelia, her proximity to the Royal court. The viewer can see the bottom dress of the heroine, which is an important part of the whole costume. It's bright orange, narrow hem and sleeve, covering the gold shoes. Official clothing of the daughter of a nobleman, as a shell, under which hides the true nature passionate and impulsive. The artist does not miss a single moment, where the outer parts could see the inner contents.

In Waterhouse's painting flowers always bear a semantic load, as a sign not only of beauty and femininity, but also the transience of all earthly things. On the hair of the heroine and in the folds of the hem — freshly-picked flowers. Bright poppy, its color echoing with the lower Ophelia's dress and its colour, symbolizes sleep and death. Daisy, by contrast, is considered a symbol of longevity, virginity, and pure sublime love.

Leather Ophelia, her blush and bright lips talking about her youth and in harmony with the surrounding summer landscape: blooming raspberries at the coast, bright buttercups in the green grass. The woman's clothes, and the surrounding garden, does not correspond to the expression of deep suffering on her face, and the future, which knows only she and the viewer. Two girls are standing on the bridge in the background and surprised to look at Ophelia. The view of the noble ladies in colors, in desperation, stepping to the water, surprising them.

Neither for the viewer nor for the artist nothing is more important than face Ophelia. Waterhouse creates its own daughter of Polonius and sister of Laertes, taking in Shakespeare, only the outline of the events: a distraught noblewoman, flowers and "swamp of death". It expresses a range of emotions, among which the most obvious despair, hopelessness and determination. The girl on the picture is not the classic image of a weak-willed lover of hamlet, it is impossible to see the madness. Her eyes focused, the movements are clear and graceful.

The death of Ophelia in Shakespeare mystery. Neither the heroes of the tragedy, nor the literary critics don't know whether it was a voluntary decision or the fault of the accident. The painter shows to the audience not the girl singing in delirium, and a woman who are about to die, tragically and deliberately. This is the uniqueness of paintings and a favorite feature of the evolution of the female image.

Critics have pointed out that this option is more interesting and dramatic than the previous two on his own writing style close to impressionism, and ideological innovation. Waterhouse boldly departed from produced by decades of tradition to portray Ophelia as a young virgin dressed in white, replacing it with a desperately determined woman in a tailored dress.
The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1910. At the moment it is stored in a private collection.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva