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Lady of Shallot

John William Waterhouse • Painting, 1888, 153×200 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Genre scene, Literary scene
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1888
Size: 153×200 cm
Artwork in collection: London, Tate gallery Irina Olikh
Artwork in selections: 129 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Lady of Shallot»

"Lady of Shallot" well — known and most famous painting Waterhouse. It found artistic expression, all the romantic aspirations of the author: passion for the past and her fascination with myths and legends and interest in the female form as a symbol of beauty and tragedy.

Sorceress Shallots: from literature to painting

Based on pattern — popular in Victorian England the work of Tennyson, "the Sorceress Shallot". Most likely, the Waterhouse caught up edition of poems, published in 1857 with illustrations Rossettiand Hunt and of course he saw the famous painting. "Sorceress Shallot" brush hunt and other pre-Raphaelite paintings on the subject. "Lady of Shallot" is the result of the impressions of the author from the work of colleagues and their own interpretation of Tennyson's poems.

Love in this small but impressive poem, a tragedy, and destruction magic spell — death. The girl Elaine is the burden of the curse: she can't leave the castle on the island of Shallot, she can't even look out the window. All the colors of life replace her with a magic mirror which reflects the beauty of the world inaccessible to her, and tapestries, on which she embroiders what she sees in the mirror. Once it reflects a passing knight of king Arthur Lancelot, and Shallots, struck by a sudden feeling rushes over to the window. The mirror cracks, the threads are torn — the curse was fulfilled, and all that awaits now loving the girl is death. But she runs to the river, sits in a boat, inscribed his name on it, and floats down the river to the castle of the beloved:

And the song heard wave,
And that song was sad,
The last time she sang,
The Fairy Shallot.

It is this moment, following the lines of the poem, exactly illustrated by Waterhouse. Lady of Shallot is sitting immovable in the boat, singing her last song, but her hand still holding the chain linking her to a past life — a magical non-existent world of one room.

The characters in the painting "Lady of Shallot"

Lack of freedom is not peculiar to the heroines real, and being chained in the castle of a mysterious curse, sorceress Shallots finds a path to liberation through love. And this way is equivalent to her death, the theme which permeates every detail of the picture through symbols and colour.

The girl depicted at the moment when it is fully ready to embark on my last in every sense of the way. Talking about this three candles at the stern, two of which died. At different times, the candle was interpreted as a symbol of the transience of life and as a symbol of hope. There is no hope, candle in the wind extinguished, and hence a life free and true before it started, untimely end.

Boat witch is the funeral bed, the headboard of which is a Crucifix, also continues the theme of needless death and innocent victims. The meaning of the past life of the Shallot — weave tapestry, and it covers the boat, like a gravestone blanket. She carelessly threw the piece of cloth in water as a sign of complete meaninglessness of his past. Water be carries the knights riders and the beautiful lady near the castle — the real life, which she saw as a reflection.

White robe recluse is a symbol of purity, innocence and at the same time her funeral outfit. On his knees lies a dried autumn leaf — a symbol of the broken life. The girl's hair loose and waving in the wind, the glance expresses deep sorrow, but there is no weakness or fear. Only the sharp curve of the eyebrows tells the viewer about the pain of a piercing character. Lady of Shallot Waterhouse's brush recalls the images of the first Christian martyrs that are portrayed are similar: in a white robe, with long luxurious hair and detached gaze.

Art features paintings of Waterhouse's "Lady of Shallot"

Waterhouse had a unique ability to depict the most tragic moments of the story, while maintaining the peace and dignity of the main character. The artist does not hide the despair and hopelessness, but the viewer sees them as ancient tragedy: aesthetic and restrained. The author uses the special painting techniques to achieve the desired effect.

A special place is given to the landscape. It differs from the traditional landscape of the pre-Raphaelites, who often were perfectly and reliably spelled out. Forest, reeds and shrubs depicted soft strokes free, they are shady and vague in contrast to the details issued to Eileen image. The trunks of the trees, candles, reeds and slender figure of mother contrasted with the heavy horizontal of the boat. The landscape as a whole, its individual parts and the way the enchanted Virgo create a special rhythm, a special poetry in painting, making a picture, on the one hand, a faithful reproduction of the poem, and on the other — a completely unique creation. The colour scheme is a warm autumn tones, which speak to the viewer about the approaching winter, that is death.

At the name of Waterhouse in the first stage occurs in the memory of the dying the image of the virgin Shallot in the boat. He and his predecessors, the pre-Raphaelites have perpetuated this fictional character that of lines of poetry passed into the domain of painting.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva