Seeing this painting by Sir John Everett Millais of Ophelia again really took me back to my school days. As a young boy (early 90s - oops showing my age) I studied A Level art and we would travel up to London to visit the galleries. Back in the day there was just one Tate - the original on the River Thames in Pimlico. There was no Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool etc. I used to love wandering around the galleries and Millais' painting of Ophelia always caught my eye and held a certain resonance for me.
I guess as I was also studying English Literature the backstory to the painting also gave it added significance - the beautiful Ophelia sent into a grief induced madness after her father Polonius was killed by Hamlet. In fact at the time one of my good friends played The Dane in an acclaimed school production of the play which was very impressive as it's one of the most difficult roles to act, not to mention a lot of tricky dialogue to learn verbatim. For me Ophelia represented the classic trope of the tragic-romantic heroine sent to the grave ahead of her time.
As part of the Pre-Raphaelite school, Millais managed to convey the scene beautifully, the tragic beauty in death of Ophelia as she floats down the babbling brook. The ghostly white of her face representing death in stark contrast to the vivid greens of grass and foliage that surrounds her in abundance. I went on to get an A in A Level art and was seriously considering going to art school, such a big decision to make at such a young age, a fork in the road that has major ramifications for the rest of your life. I opted instead to study English Literature, and the rest I guess, to borrow a well worn cliche, is history....
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