The Lady of Shalott is based upon Tennyson’s ballad of the same name. It tells the story of Elaine of Astolat, a young noblewoman imprisoned in a tower where she is cursed to weave images on her loom without directly looking out at the world. Instead, she looks into a mirror, which reflects the busy road and people of Camelot passing by her island. Impassioned at the sight of Lancelot, she stops weaving to look directly out her window. Having thereby doomed herself, she finds a boat and floats down the river to Camelot, but dies en route, her body discovered by King Arthur’s knights.
The Lady of Shalott was a favorite subject of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who influenced Grimshaw. His variation is rendered in a lurid, yellow-green light. The boat rests on the shallow, muddy shore of an expansive river. The lady dies desolate and alone.