We are all aware of Millais' Ophelia painting whilst John William Waterhouse himself completed many of his own versions, with three of them included in this website. Alongside the artwork found here, you will also see other ones from 1889 and 1894.
The character herself, Ophelia, is taken directly from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She was the wife of Prince Hamlet in this famous British story that remains amongst the best known in this literary legend’s career. Waterhouse’s different versions would experiment with the young woman’s poses and expressions, though always being flattering and respectful to his subject. British and ancient literature were the main drivers behind most of this artist’s career and his charming scenes of beauty and innocence are as popular today as ever.
The outdoor scenes of Waterhouse felt very British due to the lush green backgrounds that he appended to many of his paintings. That said, some earlier pieces held a more exotic feeling, taking architectural features from other classical cultures. Waterhouse himself was also Italian-born which influenced some of his paintings, such as the background architecture in the Soul of the Rose. He also studied prominent French art of his period, as well as the key British artist’s of generations previous, including members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as well as more classical painters like Frederic Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.