During the trip early on, I was reminded that Shakespeare can be found in all parts of modern life, especially in the United Kingdom. A few days into the trip, we were touring the British National Gallery, and I noticed a striking image. Upon further investigation, I found it to be titled “Ophelia among the Flowers,” created by Odilon Redon in the early 1900s.
This painting immediately stuck out to me. The hazy, dreamlike quality of this depiction of Ophelia captures some interesting elements of the scene. Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a highly recognizable and renowned one, and much has been said and debated over the years. Whether or not it was purposeful, did she fall or jump? Was Ophelia really “mad,” and how much agency did she have in her actions? The scene still elicits many questions for me. This painting seems to reflect this. The proto-surrealism style evokes questions with the abstract portrayal of Ophelia floating amongst the flowers. Although I am not very familiar with the finer mechanics of this type of art, I still find it intriguing to observe and connect the piece with the Shakespearean work that inspired it. Doing a tiny bit of research, I found a quote by Redon that describes his art well: “My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.” I was a little surprised to see reference to Shakespeare in the gallery; however, this inspiring painting helped me to connect visual arts with Shakespeare’s writing/theatre.