John W. Waterhouse. Ophelia, 1910.

Oil on canvas, 25 x 40 inches. Pre-Raphaelite, Inc., London.

This is the last of three paintings on Ophelia; it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1910. John Christian remarks that the painting is stylistically interesting in that "the picture shows how Waterhouse combined Pre-Raphaelite subject matter with a bold impressionistic technique. Most English artists who adopted this method, notably the so-called Newlyn School, rejected the literary themes of the Pre-Raphaelites to paint scenes from modern life. Waterhouse, who knew many of the Newlyn artists, was unusual in attempting to bridge the gulf between the Pre-Raphaelite and realist traditions that divided British art from the 1880's on" (191).

Striking too is how Waterhouse departs from the tradition elaborated over the decades; the girlish Ophelia dressed in a simple gown of virginal white is replaced with a voluptuous, mature young woman in a tailored blue and crimson gown with elegant gold embroidery. Two children in contemporary clothing look undiscerningly from the bridge, unaware that Ophelia presses on towards her fate.