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LONDON (Reuters) - "The Lady of Shalott", a painting by John William Waterhouse of a young woman lamenting unrequited love, has been chosen as the British public's favorite artwork, soon to be displayed among other masterpieces across the nation's billboards.
The public's top choice illustrates a section of a poem with the same name by British writer Alfred Lord Tennyson, which describes the Lady of Shalott sitting in a boat "like some bold seer in a trance".
In second place came John Everett Millais's "Ophelia", depicting the tragic character from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" floating down a river before she drowns.
Francis Bacon's 1949 "Head VI" followed in third place, an unsettling painting based on a 1650 portrait of Pope Innocent IX by Spanish painter Diego Velazquez.
The list was compiled based on 30,000 "likes" on Facebook from the public, who voted for their favorite pieces of British art as part of the "Art Everywhere" project.
Reproductions of the top 57 pieces will be splashed across 22,000 poster sites in cities, towns and villages across Britain from 12-25 August.
"Art is for everyone, and everyone who has access to it will benefit from it. This project is amazing and gives the public a voice and an opportunity to choose what they want to see on their streets," Damien Hirst, one of Britain's most commercially successful artists, said in a statement from Art Everywhere.
Ninety percent of British adults are expected to see the pieces on show, according to the project's website.
Hirst's "Paradaxin", a painting of equally spaced multi-colored dots on a white background, came 48th out of the 57 paintings chosen.
The event was inaugurated on Thursday by British painter Peter Blake, who unveiled a poster of his work "The Meeting or Have a Nice Day Mr Hockney" on a giant shopping-center billboard in west London.
The display aims to "bring the project to the people", seeking "as far a reach as possible," Art Everywhere press officer Elizabeth Flanagan told Reuters. The posters will be seen in spots as diverse as taxis and escalators, car parks and supermarkets.
"This is a joyful celebration with no agenda other than to flood our streets with art and celebrate the creative talents and legacy of this amazing country," Richard Reed, who initiated the idea and is co-founder of the "Innocent Drinks" fruit beverage company, said. Innocent is owned by U.S.-based beverage company Coca-Cola.
Reed is collaborating with the Tate gallery, which houses the national collection of British art, art fundraisers The Art Fund and the British poster industry.
The public partly paid for the project with 30,000 pounds ($46,600) crowd-funded through the Art Everywhere website, where people were encouraged to donate three pounds to purchase the paper and printing required for a poster site.
"It's a fantastic project and to see my work reproduced on posters across the UK is fulfilling a long-held fantasy!," Cornelia Parker, the only living artist whose work made the top 10, said in a statement on the Art Everywhere website.
Reporting By Amritha John; Editing by Michael Roddy