Ophelia Hogsmill River Surrey

Ophelia by John Everett Millais painted on the Hogsmill River 1851

John Everett Millais’ Ophelia

John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, oil on canvas, was painted in 1851 when he was just 22. The painting depicts the drowning of Shakespeare’s Ophelia who is the daughter or Polonius, sister of Laertes and a potential wife of Hamlet. As a young, tragic beauty, Ophelia has long been a popular subject of artists but it is Millais’ work which has become the iconic image of Ophelia we know so well.

John Everett Millais 1829 – 1896 was born in Southampton and spent his childhood in Jersey. Wishing to support their son’s obvious artistic talents, his parents moved to London to be closer to the Royal Academy. With its art schools and dominant influence upon English art in the Victorian period, this was the place to be for a young talent. The move paid off as he became a probationary student at the Royal Academy at the tender age of 11 – the youngest student ever.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

He met Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti at the Royal Academy and together they became founder members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The name, Pre- Raphaelite, is synonymous with romance, nature, exquisite attention to detail, classic pose and the extraordinary use of vibrant, vivid colour. This was painting from the heart without adhering to convention. The Brotherhood looked to classic sources for their inspiration – myths, legend, poetry, strong, statuesque female beauty and of course, in the case of Ophelia, – Shakespeare.

Ophelia by Millais has become the iconic image of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. It was painted for the Royal Academy Exhibition and created in two parts. Painting en plein air to capture the essence and detail of nature and flora, a method popular withVictorian artists. Millais then took the painting into his studio to add the image of Ophelia. The model for the ‘drowning Ophelia’ was Elizabeth Siddal, a lover of poetry who at the age of 19 agreed to immerse herself in a bath of cold water for long periods in the name of authenticity. She apparently didn’t complain when the lamps placed beneath the bath to keep it warm went out and she ended up with a severe cold. Her father forced Millais to pay £50 in doctor’s bills.

Identifying the Hogsmill as the setting for Ophelia

The painting was completed 160 years ago and thanks to 18 months of fine detective work from local resident, Barbara Webb we now know that the watery grave in the painting is a stretch of the Hogsmill River in Old Malden, Surrey. To be precise, Six Acre Meadow on the west bank, close to the Manor House garden.

Though the image shouts Summer, the background was actually painted over 5 months from July to December 1851 with Millais spending 11 hours a day, 6 days a week at his easel. He painted through wind, rain and persistent attacks from the biting Surrey flies and even built a small den to make things more comfortable for himself. Barbara found the location after piecing together information within the painting, accounts which Millais and Holman Hunt had written of their time in the Old Malden area and letters from Henry Stapylton, the vicar of Malden in 1851.

The painting is worth over £30 million and resides in The Tate.  A booklet by Barbara Webb ‘Millais and the Hogsmill River’ is available at Kingston Museum.

The Hogsmill River rises in Ewell, heads northwards and eventually flows under the Clattern Bridge to join the Thames at Kingston.

These images show the spot in April 2014. The river was wider, shallower and surrounded by fewer trees in Millais' time.

Point at Hogsmill River where Ophelia painted Location of Ophelia painting as it is now Upstream of Ophelia location in Old Malden A view of the site where Ophelia was painted in Old Malden Hogsmill River, Old Malden where Millaise painted Ophelia
St John's Kingston Christmas Fair

St John’s Christmas Spectacular Saturday 30th November

Christmas Spectacular, an afternoon of festive fun for all the family! Saturday 30th November from 12 - 4pm At St John the Evangelist Church Grove Lane Kingston Come for a ...
Read More
Euphonix Kingston

Euphonix Choir Christmas performances

This Christmas Euphonix will be performing at 4 venues Please come and support Euphonix, Kingston’s Community Choir, they will be singing a selection of Christmas songs and carols along with ...
Read More
Pantomimes in and around Kingston Christmas 2019

Pantomimes in and around Kingston Christmas 2019

The Snow Queen Rose Theatre Kingston Fri 6 Dec - Sun 5 Jan Tucked away in a long forgotten corner of the city is an orphanage. Here Gerda discovers that ...
Read More
Momentum Charity Christmas event

Santa’s Grotto and the Christmas Forest 7th & 8th December 2019

The Pottery, 20 Park Road, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 6BE Saturday 7 December 2019 - 5 x 30minute sessions between 3.30pm and 6pm Sunday 8 December 2019 - 7 x ...
Read More
Christmas Fair, Kingston Saturday 16 November 2019

Christmas Fair, Kingston Saturday 16 November 2019

11am to 1pm Kingston Methodist Church, 13 Fairfield South, Kingston, KT1 2UJ Christmas Fair in aid of Kingston Hospital Charity and church property funds. Seasonal gifts handcrafted cards cakes children’s ...
Read More
Harry Bradford

Thames Philharmonic Choir – A Christmas Cracker 7th December 2019

Saturday 7th December 2019 All Saints Church, Market Place, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 1JP Award-winning musician Harry Bradford conducts Thames Philharmonic Choir in a cracker of a Christmas concert. Harry ...
Read More
Tales of The Smeds and The Smoos 16th November Twickenham

Tales of The Smeds and The Smoos 16th November Twickenham

In support of Environment Trust, the world-famous illustrator Axel Scheffler is hosting three exclusive live events for children and their parents and will be joined by actor Helen Baxendale who ...
Read More
Eel Pie Summer Exhibition

Eel Pie Artists Winter Open Studios 30 Nov – 1st Dec 2019

11 - 5pm each day Eel Pie Boatyard, Eel Pie Island, Twickenham TW1 3DY Free family friendly event. Eel Pie Artists invite visitors to view a wide selection of art ...
Read More
Kingston can dance

BOLLYWOOD DANCE WORKSHOP 24th November Kingston

Kingston Can Studio, Lower Ground, Bentall Shopping Centre This November, Kingston School of Art and their Performing Arts Community Engagement programme (PACE) will be running One Hour Dance workshops at ...
Read More
Kingston can dance

HIP HOP DANCE WORKSHOP 16th & 17th November Kingston

Kingston Can Studio, Lower Ground, Bentall Shopping Centre This November, Kingston School of Art and their Performing Arts Community Engagement programme (PACE) will be running One Hour Dance workshops at ...
Read More
Kingston Can Sing

ONE HOUR CHOIR WORKSHOPS in Kingston 9th/ 10th/ 23rd November

FREE family friendly events at the Bentall Centre with Kingston University ONE HOUR CHOIR WORKSHOP 9th/ 10th/ 23rd November 2019 Kingston Can Studio, Lower Ground, Bentall Shopping Centre This November, ...
Read More
Vintage Retro Fair 2nd & 3rd November Chessington

Vintage Retro Fair 2nd & 3rd November Chessington

9 Retrotastic Years at Chessington Chessington School, Garrison Lane, KT9 2JS 10am -5pm The only UK fair of it’s kind selling jukeboxes, pinball and coin op, there are also records, ...
Read More
Njinga's Santa Charity Cycle 2019

Njinga’s Santa Charity Cycle 2019

Saturday 7th December 2019Help spread a little joy and festive spirit this Christmas time by joining over 100 cycling Santas for Njinga’s FREE Santa Charity Cycle in aid of the Shooting Star Children's Hospices ...
Read More
Flloyd Kennedy

Yes! Because…23rd November 2019 at The CornerHOUSE Surbiton

Saturday 23rd November 2019 19:30 The CornerHOUSE, 116 Douglas Road, Surbiton KT6 7SB A comical-tragical road-trip along the seven ages of woman, written and performed by Aussie-born, Liverpool-based actress, story-teller ...
Read More
Ed Byrne  - If I'm Honest Sat 18th January 2020 The Rose Kingston

Ed Byrne – If I’m Honest Sat 18th January 2020 The Rose Kingston

“At the height of his powers…it’s no wonder this is selling out nightly” THE OBSERVER Following his biggest ever tour last year and yet another sell-out Fringe run this August, ...
Read More