Visual Analysis Ophelia

“Ophelia” by John Everett Millais is a piece depicting a Shakespearean play Hamlet painted in 1852. The paintings medium is oil on canvas. The iconic character Ophelia is in a contradicting situation that causes her to be bewildered and deranged. Which has made her a complex character and someone many people can connect with. In the scene that Ophelia is being depicted, Ophelia falls over into a pond when she suddenly becomes overwhelmed with the grief of her father’s murder and her lover deceives her. She is so overwhelmed she is heading for her fatal destiny.

In such a complex situation the artist uses fine detail to reenact this moment. The painting shows an aesthetic style that is simple and exotic. The scene of the woods is a simple idea but it is exotic because of the attention to so much detail of the plants, water, and trees. It is also beautiful even though it is lacking excitement because there is no movement in the painting. The scene almost looks like it is being played out, using the visual elements Millais creates a set. The colors are primarily a dark shade of green even though there is a light value to the painting.

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The viewer can see that the scene is during the day but with lifeless plants. The dark shades give the viewer the idea of darkness and misfortune. Even though there are many dark shades, there are array of hues from the flowers she has previously picked with contradicting colors makes a asymmetrical balance. This could symbolize that picking flowers was her last resort of happiness, her last fight to some joy to life. When the flowers fell into the water, she decided to give up. The woods are created with such fine detail, making the scene feel so real giving the viewer more of an emotional bond.

John Everett Millais used high finish for his texture which the blending of brush strokes gave him a extremely detail piece that looks life like. Millais also uses a linear perspective to display a illusional three dimensional surface with the use of a vanishing point and line. Ophelia is frozen in time in a stream of water. She is completely still and lost in her own head. There is no motion, at this point of time it displays the emotion and peacefulness of accepting one’s fate. Ophelia is the main focus, she is largely depicted and given a lot of detail to signify her importance in this piece.

Ophelia is the focal point of this piece. The eye directly looks at her in the water and then moves to the detail of the plants and flowers. She is just looking up with no emotion on her face, at first glance one would say she was already dead but the color of her lips and cheeks shows she is still alive. It is the stage in between life and death so the painting displays both very different and difficult stages. Ophelia is proportional to the amount of wooded area is the background creating a good balance that is appealing to the eye.

It is also the balance between life and death. The environment represents life and Ophelia represents death. Making a realistic depiction of reality. Shakespeare creates stories that are morbid and gruesome. These stories are also very realistic, and tell the hard truth. Women from all ages have the same challenge as Ophelia, to maintain equilibrium of one’s happiness and to make everyone else happy. John Everett Millais uses visual elements to show the world the emotion and complex emotions of Ophelia that words cannot describe.

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Visual Analysis Ophelia. (2016, Dec 25). Retrieved from