A-Level: 19th-century mythological and literary works

videos + essays

Sleeping Beauty — but without the Kiss: Burne-Jones and the Briar Rose series
Sleeping Beauty — but without the Kiss: Burne-Jones and the Briar Rose series

A princess falls under a spell and sleeps for a hundred years—but Burne-Jones never shows us the kiss that awakens her.

Paul Gauguin, <em>Nevermore</em>
Paul Gauguin, Nevermore

Gauguin’s nude is suspended between dreams and reality— just like his imperialistic vision of Tahiti.

George Frederic Watts, <em>The Minotaur</em>
George Frederic Watts, The Minotaur

Inspired by a campaign to raise the age of consent, Watts harked back to the Athenian version of the Hunger Games.

Sir Frederic Leighton, <em>Bath of Psyche</em>
Sir Frederic Leighton, Bath of Psyche

Removing nearly all references to myth, Leighton focuses on the beauty of the nude and harmonious colors.

John William Waterhouse, <em>The Lady of Shalott</em>
John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott

Cursed by a spell that will kill her if she leaves her castle, this romantic redhead takes a fatal boat ride.

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, <em>King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid</em>
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid

Love conquers all for the legendary King Cophetua who finds love outside of his social sphere.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, <em>Proserpine</em>
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine

This mythological goddess tasted the forbidden fruit and had to face the consequences; the artist could relate.

William Holman Hunt, <em>Claudio and Isabella</em>
William Holman Hunt, Claudio and Isabella

A moral quandary: to save his life, Claudio asks his sister Isabella for the one thing she cannot give.

Sir John Everett Millais, <em>Ophelia</em>
Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia

The botanical accuracy of this painting is impressive, but its production wasn’t without its challenges for Millais.