Sept. 16 Art Minute: Arthur Hughes, ‘Ophelia (“And He Will Not Come Back Again”)’

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Arthur Hughes (British, 1832–1915), Ophelia (“And He Will Not Come Back Again”). Oil on canvas, about 1865. 37 5/16 by 23 3/16 inches. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1952.87. Gallery 6 in the special exhibition Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part

Arthur Hughes (British, 1832–1915), Ophelia (“And He Will Not Come Back Again”). Oil on canvas, about 1865. 37 5/16 by 23 3/16 inches. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1952.87. Gallery 6 in the special exhibition Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part

The sad madness and death of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet was a favorite subject of the group of British artists who called themselves the Pre-Raphaelites. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which included William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, frequently depicted literary subjects, placing an emphasis on emotional and symbolic content. Though not an original member of the Pre-Raphaelites, Arthur Hughes embraced their aims.

Hughes shows Ophelia as a melancholy young woman with piercing blue eyes and flowing red hair. In her madness, she is gathering flowers to hang on the willow tree; she will soon slip into the stream and drown. Hughes includes the same flowers and plants that Shakespeare chose for their symbolic meanings. The willow stood for sadness and forsaken love, the daisy for innocence, and the violets around Ophelia’s wrist for faithfulness. The little blue forget-me-nots in the grass are an appropriate addition, though Shakespeare does not include them. Hughes adds another significant flower not mentioned by Shakespeare: red poppies, symbolic of death.

Related Program

Performance: The Improvised Shakespeare Company ($)
Oct. 8: 6 p.m., Peristyle
Based on one audience suggestion (a title for a play that has yet to be written), The Improvised Shakespeare Co. creates a fully improvised Shakespearean masterpiece right before your very eyes! Each of the players has brushed up on his “thee’s” and “thou’s” to bring you an evening of off-the-cuff comedy using the language and themes of William Shakespeare. Nothing has been planned out, rehearsed, or written.  The night could reveal a tragedy, comedy, or history. Presented as part of Holy Toledo Laughfest. Tickets can be purchased at improvshakespeare.eventbrite.com.


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