John Everett Millais’ painting, Ophelia, completed in 1852, is a famous illustration of a character from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The Pre-Raphaelite style is evident in the detailed landscape that was painted separately from Ophelia. Millais created this painting with an emphasis on direct and exacting observation of nature. Every leaf and flower holds symbolism relating to the story, highlighting themes of death, love, life, madness, and nature.
Elizabeth Siddall was the model for this painting, posing for it at a time when arranged marriages for financial gain were popular in Victorian England. Her involvement in the creation of this masterpiece adds to its tragic undertones. The painting critiques arranged marriages with a somber portrayal of Ophelia’s ultimate demise.
Ophelia remains one of the most iconic paintings from Shakespeare’s work and is considered one of the top Pre-Raphaelite works displayed at Tate Britain in London. It serves as a reminder of Millais’ mastery as an artist who skillfully conveyed themes often perceived as challenging through his brushstrokes while capturing significant advancements in art history during his time period.