Ophelia is a painting by British artist Sir John Everett Millais, completed in 1851 and 1852 and in the collection of Tate Britain in London. In the Shakespere play 'Hamlet,' Ophelia is the eponymous prince's love interest. Queen Gertrude tells Hamlet of Ophelia singing while floating in a river just before she drowns.
When 'Ophelia' was first publicly exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1852, it was not universally acclaimed. A critic in The Times wrote that 'there must be something strangely perverse in an imagination which souses Ophelia in a weedy ditch, and robs the drowning struggle of that lovelorn maiden of all pathos and beauty.' In the 20th century, Salvador Dal? wrote glowingly about the artistic movement that inspired the painting. 'How could Salvador Dal? fail to be dazzled by the flagrant surrealism of English Pre-Raphaelitism. The Pre-Raphaelite painters bring us radiant women who are, at the same time, the most desirable and most frightening that exist.' He later went on to re-interpret Millais' painting in a 1973 work entitled Ophelia's Death. In 1906, Japanese novelist Natsume S?seki called the painting 'a thing of considerable beauty' in one of his novels; since then, the painting has been highly popular in Japan. It was exhibited in Tokyo in 1998 and travelled there again in 2008. The flowers shown floating on the river were chosen to correspond with Shakespeare's description of Ophelia's garland. They also reflect the Victorian interest in the 'language of flowers', according to which each flower carries a symbolic meaning. The prominent red poppy??ot mentioned by Shakespeare's description of the scene??epresents sleep and death.