One of the Tate's best-loved paintings, Ophelia by John Everett Millais - a painting that in
The paintings, including
The exhibition, staged at Tate Britain in 2012, celebrated the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, members of which saw themselves as returning in their works to the colour and truth of medieval art. Although they were often sneered at by contemporary critics and those since, their paintings have always been among the most popular works in the gallery.
Ophelia was part of the founding collection of the gallery, presented by the sugar millionaire Sir
The Millais painting shows Ophelia drowning, as described in Shakespeare's Hamlet: "Her clothes spread wide/ And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up/ Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes/ As one incapable of her own distress."
Millais painted in obsessive detail the landscape of riverside plants and flowers on the banks of the Hogsmill river in Surrey. He worked for up to 11 hours a day, six days a week, and was threatened by the local farmer with prosecution for destroying the hay in his field. "My martyrdom is more trying than any I have hitherto experienced," Millais grumbled. "The flies of Surrey are more muscular, and have a still greater propensity for probing human flesh."
Even Millais recognised that he couldn't keep his model, Rossetti's lover
He kept the water warm by lighting little oil lamps underneath it, but in one particularly gruelling session the lamps burned out and Siddal ended up lying in freezing water. She caught an appalling cold and her father threatened to sue Millais for her medical bills - which allegedly came to pounds 56, a sizeable sum in the mid-19th century.
Although it has often been claimed that the chill was fatal, Siddal in fact lived for another 10 years before dying from an overdose of laudanum.
Ophelia returns to the Tate gallery along with other paintings from the pre-Raphaelites Photo:
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