Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Which is your favorite Ophelia?

The character of Ophelia was a popular subject with 19th century painters. I’d like to ask you to vote for your favorite image in the poll at left. 

In the poll, 678 people cast a vote, and the number of votes for each painting follows each artist's name.


Above: Jules Joseph Lefebvre. 74 votes
If you’re not familiar with Ophelia, she is the tragic young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Her story has it all: beauty, insanity, death—and flowers!


Above: Alexandre Cabanel. 8
Heartbroken by Hamlet’s apparent madness and rejection of her, she gathers wildflowers, climbs a willow, which slants over the river, and falls into the water, where she drowns.


Above: Arthur Hughes  45
She’s generally shown in 19th century paintings with mussed-up hair, a white dress, a garland of flowers, and a wild look in her eyes.


Above: John Everett Millais.   282

John William Waterhouse was fascinated by Ophelia. He did three versions:


Here’s John William Waterhouse (1)  30 votes


John William Waterhouse (2)  56 votes



John William Waterhouse (3)  44 votes


Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret  21 votes


Frank Dicksee  Thomas Francis Dicksee  13 votes


W. G. Simmonds  13 votes


Antoine-Auguste-Ernest-Hébert 35 votes

 
Paul Steck   57 votes

OK! Now that you’ve seen all the images in this post, please cast your vote for your favorite interpretation in the poll at left.

Wikipedia on Ophelia 

Related books:
HAMLET 
J.W. Waterhouse
Against the Modern: Dagnan-Bouveret and the Transformation of the Academic Tradition
Sir John Everett Millais (Pre-Raphaelite Painters Series)
Millais

37 comments:

David Glenn said...

I kind of like the first image, so I'll cast my vote for that one.

Susan Adsett said...

So hard to choose! I've always loved the Millais (especially the incredible lengths he went to - and subjected his poor model to!), but ended up voting for the Hughes - it's such a different approach to the setting and the character.

MrCachet said...

I've chosen the Paul Steck. I think it most aptly tells the story - to the end.

Zanne said...

I love the Arthur Hughes and all of the Waterhouses. I'd never seen the Simmonds before and that one's very intriguing. Her billowing gown makes her look like a dying butterfly.

But I have to go with the Millais as my pick for one of the most haunting images ever.

Jason Juta said...

That is a very difficult choice as some of my favourite paintings are in there. But the background story of the Millais will always haunt me and keep that version alive in my mind.

Danielle Pershouse said...

I was always partial to Mikhail Vrubel's renditions of Hamlet and Ophelia. He paints them so darkly and I felt it fit their story well.

Kurt said...

Have to go with Paul Steck. It's just right.

Christian said...

I voted for Millais as well.
I saw the original painting once in a touring exhibition of the Tate Galery London and it has left me in awe since hence.
(http://www.smb.museum/smb/kalender/details.php?objID=6105 )

(I would love to see the others as originals as well...especially Waterhouse...just beautiful!)

Larry said...

Waterhouse # three appears a little washed out here. I believe in the original the chroma and value of the greens are similar to Waterhouse #2.

I vote for Waterhouse #'s 2 & 3.

Larry said...

I've seen the Millais as well and this looks like an accurate reproduction of the color. Beautiful flesh tones and painstakingly rendered. It's obviously a masterpiece, and this is just personal preference, but the greens seem a little over saturated to me.

Kate Higgins said...

I vote for Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret's Ophelia because of the wildness and determination in her eyes and the fact that she is not particularly beautiful. There was always that question as to whether she fell off a branch by accident or threw herself into the brook on purpose over her father's decision or crush on Hamlet who clearly didn't want to marry her (but might just want a romp in bed just for fun).

draigstudio said...

John Everett Millais's Ophelia has been and always will be my favorite.

Gordon Napier said...

They are all great. Waterehouse is my favourite artist on the whole, but I do love the 'Ophelia' by Millais.

Carole Humphreys has a beautiful 'Ophelia' pencil drawing which could be added to the list. http://carolehumphreys.com/carole's%20gothic%20art/ophelia_submerged_page.html

Jim Turner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher Thornock said...

I love Waterhouse, but Millais, sheesh. Amazing. O.K., I love Millais more, that is the noodler in me.

Emily M Hughes said...

Millais' is the classic Ophelia for a reason. Perfect in every sense, though Waterhouse #3 is alluring as well!

Karen said...

Definitely Millais! They're all so beautiful, but something about Millais painting is so moving. . it holds an everlasting breath of emotion.

Bernadette said...

Millais no doubt!

velocityofme said...

I'd like to see an Ophelia that pictures a person actually drowning and not the idealized death that Gertrude paints.

Lydia Burris said...

Very fun Poll! I didn't know there were that many Ophelias! I bet there are even more. I love finding different versions of things.
It looks like the image I've seen the most of is in the lead, I decided to go with a different one I've never seen before. They are all beautiful.

Munchanka said...

I like Waterhouse (3) for the sad, almost peacefully absent expression. Paul Steck's is particularly haunting, though.

Ira Grin said...

Millais!

Barry said...

I vote for Millais. What an interesting lesson you give us here! Aside from his brilliant technique, Millais chose a moment and a character pose that tells the story far better than the others. Lefebvre, Hughes, and Waterhouse (3) present us with a pretty lady with flowers. Waterhouse (1) & (2), Dagan-Bouveret, Dicksee, and Hebert portray unhappy women with little story. Simmonds is intriguing, but the pose is not realistic, and her head is too far out of the water to support the story. The moment that Cabanel chose is peculiar. There's no splash as she enters the water; in fact Ophelia seems to be reclining on hard water. I agree that, though an imaginative concept, the pose Steck chose is pretty unrealistic. And I recall a lesson from Color and Light: Streck painted Ophelia's underwater dress too white.

अर्जुन said...

The "Frank Dicksee" is actually a "Thomas Dicksee".

DavidStill said...

I love the second two Waterhouses, but if I have to choose one it has to be Millais.

Diana Debord said...

my favourite one is Millais' Ophelia, that painting is so dramatic and romantic at the same time.

I love Ophelia, she is the most inspiring Shakespeare's character and I also dedicated a photography project to her: http://www.debored.it/portfolio_ophelia.php

Jen Wardell said...

It's such a hard choice, because they are all very good. I think I'm going to go with the first one just because it has been one of my favourites since I was a little kid. I love the ethereal quality that his colours evoke.

Kim said...

Millais!! I was lucky enough to see it in person - stunning!

Wolf Lahti said...

My favorite Ophelia by far is this tribute to the Sir John Millais painting:

http://www.furaffinity.net/view/5583646

tobbA said...

I think Millais is still the best. But I really like the second one by Waterhouse too. It doesn't tell the story of her drowning but I think it captures the feeling of beauty while death is lurking and that something's not right.

Gary said...

Why is it that every artist thinks the human face is always emotionless?

Is it because they can't get the references? If Shakespeare's writing had so little emotion we wouldn't be talking about him now.

Why do we still call emotionless works 'great' works in the art world? Technically these works are great, but none translate Shakespeare's drama.

Brooks Hansen said...

The Millais is very good, no question. One of the problems, of course, is that Ophelia is a very unclear character. Her relationship to Hamlet is a bit of a mystery that the text just doesn't solve. Did they really love each other? How far along in their relationship were they? Was she nothing more than a scorned palace groupie who ends up being much too willing to do her father's bidding? Is she carrying Hamlet's child? Shakespeare hints at all of these, but doesn't permit us to be sure. It's more as if he forces us to choose an answer and go with it.

For all these reasons, and my own sense that to make her remotely interesting you have to assume that she was the crazy one all along (as opposed to Hamlet, who only pretends to be crazy)I'm going to give a very honorable mention to the Antoine-Auguste-Ernest-Hébert, as that's the most substantive portrait, and suggests that she is harboring far more desire and madness than she would ever let on to her father or brother (a bit like the Helena Bonham Carter portrayal).

I agree with Gary that the majority of others are kind of expressionless, reflecting the artist's unwillingness or inability to fill in the blank that Shakespeare created.

Rich said...

I'd opt for Millais as well. Although my favorite has not been incorporated here - the one by Eugene Delacroix.

P.T. Waugh said...

Millais definitely. Millais' image is the one that comes to mind right away, it's iconic. I like how she blends right into the water.

Sandra Van Winkle said...

Millais's work is usually the one that most people think of for Ophelia, but I've always loved Waterhouse's works. The second version's color palette is exquisite. Thanks for pulling all these versions together for comparison.

Marion said...

I like the second one by Cabanel. I did not know there were so many versions of Ophelia. Thank you

Marc Is My Hero! said...

I have always loved the waterhouse versions and steck's, but Millais is still my favorite. Here is my take on Ophelia from several years ago (with some influences from the above artists):

http://www.marcevan.com/art/Illustration.html#21

Great poll, James!