The Tate Catalogue contains much valuable information about this work [GPL].
W. Holman Hunt's praise of the painting
must first put ourselves back to the date when it was
painted. The exhibition world was full of pictures of
fairies and attendant spirits, and without exception we
may see that these were all conceived as graceful human
pigmies. Millais, at one burst, treated them as elfin
creatures, strange shapes such as might lurk away in the
shady groves and be blown about over the surface of a
mere, making the wanderer wonder whether the sounds
they made were anything more than the figments of his
own brain. Millais' was the poetic imagination not to be
passed over unnoted, although its originality was hastily
taken by ordinary minds as the point on which to condemn
it. The landscape of "The Woodman's Daughter," painted
in 1850, might not be so conclusive in the testimony it
offers of a new evangel, but the charms throughout the
background of the " Ophelia," and the pathetic grace of
the love-wrapt maiden, are enough to proclaim that not
in one feature alone, but in the whole picture, a new art
was born. [Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, II, 399
Hunt, William Holman. Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1905.
The Pre-Raphaelites. London: Tate Gallery/Allen Lane, 1984. No. 24. Pp. 74-75.