The Return Of Romance In Art

The story behind "Ophelia" the most captivating painting of the British Pre-Raphaelites exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

"Ophelia" by British artist Sir John Everett Millais
"Ophelia" by British artist Sir John Everett Millais

Spring is almost here and love is in the air, and especially in the fine art world of the National Gallery of Art (NGA). Organized by Tate Britain in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, visiting now are the British Avant-garde artwork of the Pre-Raphaelites. The Victorian Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt knew how to evoke our senses and wake up our interest in sensual, ethereal, mythical, and most importantly romantic Art. The star of the show is “Ophelia” by John Everett Millais. “Ophelia”a beautiful maiden that lays helplessly in a brook drowning, or is she dreaming? Sadly, it is more like drowning. Is it the drown of love? And, we all know unfortunately that sometimes matters of the heart can lead to unfortunate consequences. In Ophelia's case, love lead to a tragic death. In Shakespeare's masterpiece “Hamlet”, she is Hamlet's love interest. At the play's highlight and climatic pinnacle of the “Nunnery Scene” where Hamlet utters the most famous words in English literature “To be or not to be...” conflict arises and the story develops. Of course, Shakespearean style, trouble begins, Hamlet known for his temper gets out of hand and storms out on poor Ophelia by saying "we will have no more marriages", and exits the scene (which basically means he leaves her). Ophelia is surely left bewildered and heartbroken. A series of unfortunate events follow such as the death of Ophelia's father which add more grief to Ophelia's poor and faint heart. Ophelia obviously becomes out of sorts and climbs on a willow tree, the branch breaks and Ophelia falls and drowns in the brook below. Is it drowning or is it suicide as suggested by the Sextons in the play? One never knows, yet what one knows is upon viewing “Ophelia” the painting at NGA, one can attest it is the most beautiful and poetic death ever seen. This is the charm of this amazingly beautiful and sad painting. The mystery of what happened to this beautiful woman and her tragic death engages the viewers. Millais had painted “Ophelia” in such skill, love and attention to details which makes the paining superbly effective and captivating.

More Literature and reference to poetry can be found upon viewing the enchanting and whimsical art of the Pre-Raphaelites.

The Pre-Raphaelite art movement brotherhood, formed in 1848, shook mid-19th-century Britain by their rejection to traditional approaches to painting. This rebellious brotherhood of artists combined beauty, scientific and imaginative grandeur and created a new innovative approach to subject matters.

Paintings like “Ophelia” move such emotions and motivities the poet within. “An Ode to Ophelia” sounds like a title - The creativity is all fired up.

The exhibition is perfect for anyone who is into passion, drama, beauty, mystery, and intrigue.

The Exhibition is currently on view until May 19, 2013 in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Main Floor.

To learn more about artist Vian Borchert and her art classes visit:


Facebook: Vian Borchert Fine Arts

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