In college, we had a subject called Art Appreciation. See, I am not one to understand art much. I look, and I like what strikes me. Too much symbolism, I will admit I won’t understand it. However, when we talked about Pre-Raphaelite artists, this painting really spoke to me. John Everett Millais’ Ophelia. They say it depicts the scene in Hamlet when Ophelia is driven insane when her lover Hamlet murders her father. To me, the woman in this painting has haunted me since I saw it in 2006.
So it may look a bit macabre, and really, Ophelia does eventually drown in the river. But in this scene, she floats on. Head afloat, a bit serene. A moment of calm in the middle of the tragedy she just suffered. And in all this, she remains unforgettably beautiful. Clutching a garland of flowers in red and blue, in a gorgeous dress. Her face just so. Not weeping, not really showing too much of anything.
I have no new thoughts, as this is a painting that’s been loved, hated and unnerved millions. It just hit me this morning. Sometimes everyone feels like Ophelia, driven mad by their circumstances, but in the midst of it, finds an eerie moment of calm.
Beautiful, haunting, unnerving. Ophelia.