The Lady of Shallot

7:00 AM

John Waterhouse, The Lady of Shallot, 1888
Bereavement, anguish, despondency, despair, misery, pain, sorrow. Waterhouse conveys all of these emotions with the simple upward tilt of her chin. If the Lady of Shallot was crumpled inwards, like all of us would be, the painting would seem meek and internal. Instead, and I can't point out one particular reason why, the outward and open emotion hits us harder. Sure, there's a narrative in this painting, but the raw emotion exhibited by the subject is enough for me.

I love this painting. I always have a niggling suspicion I've seen it before. I think the poem it's painted after ruins it. The gist of "The Lady of Shallot" by Tennyson is: love-struck teenager dies from breaking curse. Did I mention she fell head of heels in love with Sir Lancelot....after seeing him once? Don't even get me started on how much this character pushes back the women's movement.

But when I look at this painting, I don't see an agency-less female. I see an indescribable emotion being conveyed in the smallest details. And because of that, I can overlook its dubious literary origin.

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