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Odilon Redon, Ophelia among the Flowers

Key facts
Full title Ophelia among the Flowers
Artist Odilon Redon
Artist dates 1840 - 1916
Date made about 1905-8
Medium and support Pastel on paper
Dimensions 64 × 91 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought with a contribution from the Art Fund, 1977
Inventory number NG6438
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Ophelia among the Flowers
Odilon Redon

Ophelia, the doomed heroine in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, rests within a luminous space filled with vibrantly-coloured flowers. Unlike her vivid surroundings, her face is drained of colour – we are not sure if she is dead or only sleeping. This association of youthful, but ill-fated, beauty with dreaming, sleep and death was a popular theme in much of the art and literature of the nineteenth century, particularly in its closing decades.

Odilon Redon (1840–1916) creates a deliberately ambiguous and dream-like response to Shakespeare’s drama, rather than a literal illustration of it. He makes full use of the rich colours of pastel to create a glowing and almost abstract design that evokes the effect of music.

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