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
Harry Hill at the Rose Kngston

Coming up at The Rose Theatre Kingston 2018

Coming up at The Rose 2018 24-26 High Street, Kingston, KT1 1HL MAP rosetheatrekingston.orgRose Theatre Kingston Summer Schools 30 Jul – Sun 2 Sept 2018 Now in the tenth year ...
Read More
Summer dance workshops in Kingston

Summer dance workshops at DanceForce Kingston 28th to 31st August 2018

DANCEFORCE HOLIDAY 2018 WORKSHOPSFor junior 8-11 yrs & senior 12+yrs students. Ballet, body conditioning & stretching, jazz, contemporary & Hip Hop WHEN: 28th August - 1st Sept TIME: 10am-3pm. WHERE: ...
Read More
Prudential RideLondon in Kingston upon Thames

Prudential RideLondon in Kingston upon Thames

Saturday 28th - Sunday 29th July 2018 - festival of cycling The Prudential RideLondon is a legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games. It's an annual festival of cycling developed by ...
Read More
Merton Band at Canbury Gardens

Merton Concert Band Sunday 12th August at Canbury Gardens Bandstand

Bring a picnic and enjoy a free concert by the river 3pm-5pm With an illustrious 30-year history and an extensive repertoire Merton Concert Band specialises in big band favourites, show ...
Read More
Canbury free summer concerts

Canbury Bandstand Concerts by the river in Kingston Summer 2018

Gather some friends, take a picnic and enjoy local bands free, 3pm to 5pmCanbury Bandstand, Canbury Gardens KT2 5AW July 15th: Kingston Youth Band August 5th: New London Concert Band ...
Read More
Failing at Adulthood

Failing at ADDulthood- IYAF 13th and 14th of July at Kingston College

Friday: 19:30-20:15 Saturday: 20:00-20:45 Act Studio- Kingston College- Kingston Hall Rd, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2AQ A moving one-woman show exploring the effect that ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) ...
Read More
Rose Kingston theatre summer school

Rose Theatre Kingston Summer Schools 30 Jul – Sun 2 Sept 2018

Mon 30 Jul – Sun 2 Sept at Rose Theatre Kingston 24-26 High Street, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 1HL Now in the tenth year of high quality summer schools ...
Read More
teddington choral society

Teddington Choral Society Summer concert 14 july 2018

Music for Royal Occasions 14 july 2018 at 7:30pmVenue:  All Saint Parish Church,Market Place, Kingston KT1 1JP On this special evening, Teddington Choral Society conducted by Sam Evans will perform ...
Read More
A Winter's Tale at The Rose Kingston

Youth Music Theatre UK present A Winter’s Tale 30 August – 2 September 2018 Kingston

A Winter's Tale 30 August – 2 September 2018 Rose Theatre Kingston A bold and brilliant interpretation of the well-known play by William Shakespeare. Two worlds collide into one happy ...
Read More
King Lear at the Michael Frayn theatre Kingston

National Theatre Live at the Michael Frayn Theatre Kingston

Julie NT Live Thu 6 Sep 2018 Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, NT Live: A Streetcar Named Desire) and Eric Kofi Abrefa (The Amen Corner) feature in the cast of this ...
Read More
Free history talks at the Normansfield, Teddington

Free history talks at the Normansfield, Teddington

A Local History Talk The Life of John Charles Buckmaster 1819 - 1908 The Father of Teddington Library Saturday 28 July 2018 | 2pm A talk by local historian Ken ...
Read More
Tiny Dancers Rave Kingston

Tiny Dancers Family Rave in Kingston

14th July 2pm - 4pmThe ACT theatre, Kingston College, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 2AQ £8 per person£25 for 4 ticketsTiny Dancers Family Rave is the ultimate daytime music event where ...
Read More
Water Rocket Challenge

NPL Water Rockets Challenge 20th June 2018

Wednesday 20 June 2018 At National Physical Laboratory Sports Ground, TW11 0EBIn aid of Shooting Star Chase children's hospice charity.Open to schools, families, friends, colleagues, universities, businesses, youth clubs, NPL ...
Read More
Uproot

UpRoot at ACT Theatre Kingston 8th, 9th July 2018

UpRoot is a new play by Andrew McPherson which will be performed by Churchill Theatre Young Company 8 & 9 July at ACT theatre in Kingston, as part of part ...
Read More
Normansfield theatre in Teddington

Events at the Normansfield Theatre Teddington

Violin Recital Hee-Jin Kwon Sunday, 24 June 2018 at 7.30pm Tickets £15 Following the performance of Sibelius’ violin concerto with the Thames Philharmonia at the Landmark, outstanding Korean violinist Hee-jin ...
Read More