Description (what I see)
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse is the depiction of a sad and visibly anxious woman in a boat that appears to drift downstream. The foreground of the artwork presents the woman dressed in a virginal white material. On the sides of the boat hangs a tapestry that seems to drag in the water and whose edges are colorfully woven. There are two clearly visible roundels on the tapestry that come out as a result of the ingenious artistic use of color. There is a depiction of reeds next to the boat. In the boat stand three candles, two of which have gone out and one that still burns. Next to these candles lies a crucifix. The middle ground of the painting portrays stone stairs that recede. Notably, the artist uses soft shades and pale lines to achieve a smooth presentation of texture on the boat with occasional linear patterns that protrude and create rough texture on those areas. Again, thickets and trees that are brought out with relative dullness exist in the middle ground. The painting’s background stands with less focus and relative dreariness as opposed to the foreground.
Analysis (How did the artist do it?)
Being a presentation of part of a poem in which The Lady of Shalott is cursed and has to leave a water-house in an island to face her death, Waterhouse presents the perceived scene just after she departs with a boat. There is elementary balance as the artist brings out the insipid woman’s figure against a gently receding, but equally pale background and it is because of the use of color and shades in that this balance is achieved. Again, use of color and light in this painting that comes out as dull on the overall probably signifies doom as in the poem it is indicated that the lady heads for death. Mood, tone and imagery are also achieved through various depictions. For example, the woman’s hair remains unkempt while her face is characterized by bewilderment. Almost certainly, this gives the indication of uncertain fate and lack of control over destiny.
Interpretation (what I think about when viewing the image)
In a clear way, a simple look presents an outstanding depiction of doom and destruction. The lady, though beautiful, looks very sad and filled with anxiety. “Waterhouse shows her letting go the boat’s chain, while staring at a crucifix placed in front of three guttering candles”. Contrast is used as Waterhouse’s ingenious way of creating a center of focus on the woman who is the subject matter.