Ysgol Stanwell School

Archer Road, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, CF64 2XL

Dr Gwilym Wyn Roberts visits “Ophelia”

Posted on: Monday 09th December 2013

On Tuesday 26th November, Dr Roberts visited the Art and Design Department to view the amazing pastel painting of Millais’ ‘Ophelia’ which was kindly donated to the school. This beautiful piece was
accompanied by a very interesting story:

“Back in 1999, by chance whilst out shopping we came across a young 22 year old homeless man called Derek
on the streets of Harrow in North West London. We had seen him a few times engaging in pavement pastel
painting, then one Saturday he had a very large piece of paper taped to the pavement on which he had started to sketch an image from a small postcard that he had in his pocket. Although he had only just sketched the right corner of her face showing her right eye, we both instantly recognised the image, that of one of our favourite pre-Raphaelite painting ‘Ophelia’ by Millais. In awe of the challenge that Derek had obviously set himself as a way to gain some income for his survival on the streets of London we asked whether he would consider us supporting him with a view of buying the painting on completion. Surprised he said “sure no one has ever asked me before”. We bought him lunch, left a few coins, shook hands, gave him our telephone number agreeing that there would be no time frame for its completion. We saw him periodically over the October and November of 1999, and as the weather worsened, Derek slowly disappeared from the streets of Harrow. Time moved on, and in October 2003 we were selling our home in London to return home with new jobs and opportunities to Cardiff and Penarth. With literally 2 weeks to go until the actual move, the phone rang: it was Derek! Ophelia was completed and to our surprise Derek had been busking and painting his way around Europe for 3 years. We laughed as parts of Ophelia had been painted in Madrid, Barcelona, Toulouse, Rome and Venice to name just a few.

We took delivery of the finished painting as we were moving to Penarth. A dear friend kindly framed it as Lyn in her own right is a master framer. In 2009 S4C did a documentary about our home on a programme called ‘Rhwng 4 Wal’ where we narrated the story of Ophelia to a wider audience.

She hung in our home for 8 years, and it was only when we simply did not have the wall space to show Ophelia in our new home that she has finally went on to new and more creative pastures in the Art and Design department of Stanwell School. It is with sincere pleasure that we have been able to visit the School to see for ourselves Ophelia’s final resting place”.

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