Task II

Using the library and internet as resources exploring the influence of painting on photography as a group. Report back to the classroom in 45 minutes with the following

  • visual examples of each & dates.
  • a brief discussion of artist biographic details.
  • discuss the media used by painter & photographer. 
  • describe how the painter has influenced the photographer.
  • analyse and discuss similarities and differences.

John Everett Millais Ophelia, (Oil on Canvas) Tom Hunter The Way Home (Cibachrome print)

Ophelia 1851-2 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896
Ophelia 1851-2 Sir John Everett Millais

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829–1896. Born into a wealthy family in Southampton, he attended Sass’s Art School and was considered a child prodigy and a pioneer of British painting. He began painting Ophelia in 1851. Based on a character from Shakespeare’s  play Hamlet, the scene, painted in oils, shows the demise of Ophelia as she succumbs to the calm of the waters, not committing suicide but not wanting to thrive either.

Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

He began by painting the background foliage within the image. This took 5 months and this time is evident in that the blooms themselves would not have flowered together as in the painting. The later inclusion of Ophelia – modelled by Elizabeth Siddal – took several months, during which Siddal laid in a bath warmed by nearby lamps.

Tom Hunter. The Way Home.


Tom Hunter, born 1965 in Dorset, began studying photography at college and for his Master’s degree at The Royal College of Arts in London.

His book  ‘The Way Home’ was published in 2012 and explored the area of Hackney and the people living there. Hunter liked to show the constant battle of nature versus the city development. This image is the story of a young girl heading home after a night dancing and slipping and ‘losing herself to the dark slippery, industrial motorway of a bygone era.’ A Cibachrome print created from a colour transparency is considered a fine art reproduction photograph that would never fade as most prints would.

The similarities between these two images are immediate. The simple form of the girl in the water surrounded by lush greenery is unquestionable, as are the concepts that bring this poor girl to this moment, and both are calm and accepting of their fate. The processes used in the production of both will ensure long lasting and vibrant definition, a representation of the finality of death perhaps, the images as lasting as death itself.

Update – 24/04/2016

Reading another WordPress blog – The Literate Lens – Sarah Coleman recently commented on a visit to the  Association of International Photography Art Dealers fair, playing a rich man’s game of spending imaginary funds and choosing which piece of art to buy. In her write up she shares images from artist photographers Richard Selesnick and Nicholas Kahn and their modern version of Ophelia in ‘which models posed half-submerged in water with objects around them.’

“‘Dreams of the Drowning World,’ is an epilogue to the tale of the fictional, travelling theatre troupe that performed plays at the edge of the world for no one.” “each imaginative work reveals a melding of vast and varied influences from human history through cultural references of art and literature, politics and events within the natural world.” http://www.robischongallery.com/exhibition/174/press_release/