Friday, 15 February 2013

The Lady of Shalott

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
            To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
            The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
            And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
"I am half sick of shadows," said
            The Lady of Shalott.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
            She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
            The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right —
The leaves upon her falling light —
Through the noises of the night
            She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
            The Lady of Shalott
                                                        Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Lady of Shalott
My OH and I often watch University Challenge together, and see how many questions we can each do (his subject is Maths, whereas I can sometimes do the History/English/Art/Classical Music questions!). This week one set of questions were on paintings of The Lady of Shalott, and I managed to impress him with my knowledge!

This is one of my favourite poems, and the subject of two of my favourite paintings, so I was inspired to do a post on them!

I am sure that most people know this painting of the Lady of Shalott by Waterhouse, which is amazing, and is in the permanent collection at Tate Britain:

The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse, 1888, Tate Britain

The contestants on University Challenge were also asked about this painting by William Holman Hunt:

The Lady of Shalott, William Holman Hunt, 1905, Wadsworth Atheneum

Now, I love this painting! I saw it at the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate before Christmas - it’s really quite big and the colours are breathtaking – and I currently have it as my wallpaper on my work computer. I love the movement in it – it shows the moment that ‘the mirror crack’d from side to side’ and you can feel that moment of action and crisis as her weaving unravels and her hair flies around. In contrast to some other paintings of The Lady of Shalott, where she is shown in her boat floating down the river, this is full of drama and life. I also read an interesting article once about the Pre-Raphaelites and their fascination with women’s hair in their paintings, and its connotations of eroticism – I love that the Lady of Shalott here is shown here with her beautiful loose hair, rather than a victim lying helplessly in a boat or her passively waiting for something to happen.

There are many other Lady of Shalott paintings; she was a particularly popular subject for the Pre-Raphaelites.

But before we look at them, I also want to mention how one of my absolute favourite nail polish brands, a-england, named one of their ‘Gothic Beauties’ nail polishes after The Lady of Shalott. Clearly, I had no choice but to purchase this... and the rest of the set! This is really beautiful dark nail polish, with a black base and gorgeous blue shimmer. I was impressed when I wore it, as the blue shimmer gave it really lovely depth.

There are plenty of pictures of this on the net, but two of my favourite nail bloggers, Fashion Polish and Ommorphia Beauty Bar (whose descriptions of the polishes are used on the a-england website) have gorgeous swatches of these on their blogs here and here.

Onto the paintings... I apologise for the huge number, I got a bit carried away when researching (and you will see what I mean about her lying helplessly in a boat for many of them!).

 The Lady of Shalott, Henry Darvell, 1848-1851

The Lady of Shalott, Elizabeth Siddal, 1853

The Lady of Shalott, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1857

The Lady of Shalott, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Lady of Shalott, William Maw Egley, 1858

The Lady of Shalott, Walter Crane, 1862

The Lady of Shalott, John Le Farge, 1862

The Lady of Shalott, Arthur Hughes, 1863

The Lady of Shalott, Arthur Hughes, 1873

The Lady of Shalott, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875

The Lady of Shalott, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878

The Lady of Shalott, William A Breakspeare (1855-1914)

The Lady of Shalott, G.E. Robertson (1864-1920)

 The Lady of Shalott, Emma Florence Harrison, (1877-1955)

The Lady of Shalott, Emma Florence Harrison, (1877-1955)

The Lady of Shalott, Charles Robinson (1870-1937)

The Lady of Shalotte, Henry Meynell Rheam, 1859–1920

The Lady of Shalott [looking at Lancelot], John William Waterhouse, 1894, Leeds City Art Gallery

The Lady of Shalott, John Byam Liston Shaw, 1898

The Lady of Shalott, Seymour Garstin Harvey, 1900

The Lady of Shalott, Sidney Harold Meteyard, 1913

I am half-sick –of shadows, said the Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse, 1916

And some more modern interpretations:
The Lady of Shalott, Jeffrey Barson, (1966- )
 Elegy for Darkness - The Lady of Shalott, Donato Giancola, 2004
 Trapped, Melanie Delon, 2009
I hope you have enjoyed my extensive trawl through the world of the Lady of Shalott. Which is your favourite piece of artwork here?

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