William Orchardson

Sir William Quiller Orchardson was a highly talented portrait painter as well as an exceptional narrative painter, skillful at conveying feelings, emotions, and psychological tension or despair via body language and expression, as well as descriptive detail. Ophelia is a Shakespearean character who appears in Hamlet. She was Hamlet's potential wife who descends into grief and madness after he assassinates her father, Polonius. She dies at a young age, drowning in a river.
  • Artist

    William Orchardson

  • Date


  • Medium

    Oil on canvas

  • Object number


  • Dimensions unframed

    101.5 × 128.3 cm

  • Dimensions framed

    123.1 × 147.4 cm

  • Marks

    Signed bottom right

  • Subject



Sir William Quiller Orchardson RA, 1832-1910

Born in Edinburgh, Orchardson was one of a group of artists who studied at the city’s Trustees’ Academy until Robert Scott Lauder. He moved to London at the age of 30 with fellow artist John Pettie, where he established himself as a painter of portraits and genre scenes. His breakthrough work, ‘Napoleon on board the Bellerephon’, was shown at the Royal Academy in 1880 to great acclaim and was bought for the Tate. He is best known for narrative scenes from history or literature, and ‘costume genre’ paintings set in the 18th century which show sensitive observation of human nature. He also excelled at portraiture, and was commissioned to paint a group portrait for Queen Victoria.