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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 On loan: Impressionists on Paper: Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
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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