Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Art and Shakespeare

It's been a while since I posted for Art of the Week. Everything else I've been clamb'ring to learn caused art to slip my mind. So here goes.

My favorite art movement is the Pre-Raphaelite. It appeals to my love of melancholy, drama, beauty, and history, I suppose. A favorite subject for these 19th painters was Ophelia, the tragic heroine of my second favorite play by Shakespeare (my first being Macbeth). Many a
Pre-Raphaelite artist had a unique vision of this fragile, lost little soul, but nearly all these visions revolve around her death, described in lurid and lovely detail by Queen Gertrude in Act 4, scene 7, of Hamlet.

"There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.
There on the pendent boughs her crownet weeds
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down the weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and endued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death."

Three paintings to contrast:

Arthur Hughes, 1863

Alexandre Cabanel, 1883

John Edward Millais, 1852

I had not seen the Cabanel painting before today. I love it for catching Ophelia in the actual fall. For still more paintings to compare and admire, there's a wonderful entry >HERE< at blogspot.


Anonymous said...

trying to see if it works! Love the paintings too! Makes me think of all the wonderful paintings we saw on our trip.

Akoss said...

Hello there.
Thanks for following my blog. It's always a pleasure to me a fellow writer.
Your post here reminded me of my history courses in college :) Thanks for sharing.

Court Ellyn said...

Hi, Akoss! Thanks to you, too. Though I majored in English, I think Art History were my favorite courses in college.