Waterhouse – English painter, known for his paintings, revealing and illustrating mythological and literary subjects. Most often, the central image of the paintings is the image of a woman, they are all written with visible attention to detail, observation, tenderness and thoughtfulness, focusing on the inner world and experiences of the heroine.
Ophelia is the heroine of Shakespeare, Hamlet’s beloved, a young girl who did not answer the prince of his love aspirations and went mad after Hamlet killed her father. After the scene of death, she appears in the play only two times, being absolutely insane.
Humming seemingly meaningless songs and behaves detached. Her story ends in death – the river carries her away, and no one in reality or in the world of Hamlet can say for sure whether she accidentally fell or committed suicide. Disputes are still going on.
Waterhouse is also ambiguous in the interpretation of history – his Ophelia stands on the shore, raising the hem for the next step, holding an armful of flowers, but her face is so concentrated and at the same time detached that it is impossible to say whether she sees something in front of her.
Her gaze, painfully fixed, is directed at the viewer. Chin raised. She seems to be looking for something or she is frightened of something – it is impossible to determine from her appearance whether she is consciously going to step into the stream.
However, focusing on the image of Ophelia, young, crazy and beautiful, the artist does not forget about the details. About the flowers at her feet, about bunches of high grass on the shore, about the ladies on the veranda – they look at Ophelia, alert, but they don’t yet understand what will happen next moment. And it is easy to imagine how water will splash, taking Ophelia, and as with the same painfully focused, anxious face, she will float in the stream, until the dress finally pulls her to the bottom.