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This intimate painting was begun around the time of Watts’s short-lived first marriage to Ellen Terry in 1864. Here, the 17-year-old actress models for Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The tendrils of encircling willow foreshadow Ophelia’s watery grave.

Watts abandoned the painting after the couple’s separation, returning to it in the late 1870s. In 1878, the same year that the painting was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, Terry made her debut in the role of Ophelia at the Lyceum Theatre.

1863-1864 and c.1877-1880
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 63.5cm

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