Shakespeare's Hamlet treated by Delacroix

Shakespeare's Hamlet treated by Delacroix

  • Hamlet's reproaches to Ophelia.

    DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)

  • The song and the madness of Ophelia.

    DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)

  • The suicide of Ophelia.

    DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)

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Title: Hamlet's reproaches to Ophelia.

Author : DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)

Date shown:

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Technique and other indications: Lithographic suite "Hamlet": Reproaches d'Hamlet à Ophélie. "Go to a convent!" Act III, scene I

Storage place: Eugène Delacroix Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved website

Picture reference: 71-008347

Hamlet's reproaches to Ophelia.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

To close

Title: The song and the madness of Ophelia.

Author : DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)

Creation date : 1834

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Lithographic suite "Hamlet": The song and the madness of Ophélie. "His snow-white shroud was strewn with flowers."

Storage place: Eugène Delacroix Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. G. Ojeda

Picture reference: 92-004840

The song and the madness of Ophelia.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. Ojeda

To close

Title: The suicide of Ophelia.

Author : DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Lithographic suite "Hamlet": The suicide of Ophélie. "And first of all her loose, fluttering clothes prop her up on the water for a few moments."

Storage place: Eugène Delacroix Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. Ojedasite web

Picture reference: 92-004851

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. Ojeda

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Shakespeare's discovery

The publication of the works of Shakespeare translated by Ducis aroused a certain interest in English theater from the Empire. The creation of the Shakesperian drama Otello by Rossini at the Italian Theater in Paris (June 5, 1821) represents a major event in the history of performances in the XIXe century. But it was in May 1825 that he discovered, during a trip to London, the energy of the Shakespearean characters in Richard III, Henry VI, Othello and Storm. Between 1824 and 1859, the painter will devote some twenty paintings to Shakespeare, half of which deal with Hamlet.

Image Analysis

Delacroix and Hamlet

Delacroix learned the techniques of etching and lithography in the 1820s. After the success that his caricatures and his documentary plates meet at the Salon, he tackles the engraved portrait, then illustration with his first masterpieces. 'artwork : Faust and Hamlet. There he reveals a real interest in black and white which, throughout his work, will complement his work on color, in a balance between painting, printmaking and drawing.

The lithographic suite that Delacroix devotes to Hamlet between 1834 and 1843 is the most complete testimony to the painter's admiration for Shakespeare's work throughout his life. It is by no means a harmonious illustration of the five acts of the play, but real creations in which the artist's impressions of the theater merge the most charged, in her eyes, with emotional intensity.

The three prints show a bias towards austerity with very few characters, a decoration reduced to the essential and a very tight framing of the figures which highlights the expression of attitudes and faces.

The cabinet scene where Hamlet meets Ophelia is reminiscent in the composition and decor of "Marguerite au rouet". Ophelia appears hesitant, prostrate, sitting in the bright light, her legs in the shade, her hands clasped on her knees. She looks overwhelmed as Hamlet looks over her shoulder at her and pushes her away, his arm outstretched towards her. The use of chiaroscuro and sharp diagonals underlines the general tension in the painting despite a certain naivety in the drawing which, according to Yves Bonnefoy, betrays a deep confusion in the artist.

The print evoking the scene of Ophelia's song and madness seems to have come directly from the painter's theater memories. We find there the special artifices which struck the public of the time and which the press reported: "His sighs, sobs, shivers, his mad cries, his songs, his silences, his expressive blue eyes and his white skin, which falls and the inventive use of a long black veil make her immediately palpable like mad. "

The death of Ophelia is a subject that will inspire the painter all his life (he will make three versions of it in painting). From his youth, Delacroix was interested in the traditional theme of young women in the bath, copying the naiads painted by Rubens for The Embarkation of Marie de Medici (Musée du Louvre), demonstrating a real science of light reflections on wet flesh, but also a certain clumsiness in the rendering of floating objects. The horizontal framing of the scene, the position of the elongated body with a hand still clinging to the branches, its sketchy appearance, accentuate the tragic and irremediable nature of death. He himself describes the drowning death of Ophelia as "a flowering branch half fallen in the waves".

Interpretation

Lack of success

Illustrating the essential role played by the theater in the birth of Romanticism, Delacroix's engravings did not however win any success with the public, and The Artist even went so far as to evoke "sorry pages" that the artist would have done better to keep in his boxes. Some pioneering art critics like Paul de Saint-Victor in Press of May 31, 1864, were however enthusiastic: "Read again Hamlet by comparing it with the lithographs by Eugène Delacroix, the drama will come to life and breath and will be illuminated with new lights. He has taken on their own form the characters floating between life and dreams; we can no longer imagine them in any other way than those he lent them. [...] Eugène Delacroix, with his deep sense of poetic things, understood thatHamlet was above all a mysterious drama, and to want to interpret it too literally would be, in a way, to violate a sepulcher. "

  • romanticism
  • Shakespeare (William)
  • theater
  • Byron (Lord)
  • actor

Bibliography

Bram DIJKSTRA, The Idols of Evil, Paris, Le Seuil, 1992. Anne MARTIN-FUGIER, Actresses: Actresses in France in the 19th century, Paris, complex re-edition, 2008 Anne MARTIN-FUGIER, The Romantics, Paris, Hachette, coll. "Daily Life", 1998. Mario PRAZ, The Flesh, Death and the Devil in 19th Century Literature, Paris, Denoël, 1977. Jean-Claude YON, Cultural history of France in the 19th century, Paris, Colin, 2010.

To cite this article

Catherine AUTHIER, "Shakespeare's Hamlet treated by Delacroix"


Video: Analisando A morte de Ofélia de Delacroix. Plein Air