John William Waterhouse was an English Neoclassical and Pre-Raphaelite painter. In the field of painting, he had a strong interest in Eastern mystical culture and religion, historical stories, and literature, so much so that he later used Greek mythology as the subject of his paintings. Most of his paintings are sad and touching, warm and soft, romantic and dreamlike, with mysterious colors, but more secular than the works of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. The beautiful women in his paintings have the typical female characteristics of the Pre-Raphaelites - slender, pale, and girlish. He was also fond of the "femme fatale" theme, with a penchant for decorative detail and authenticity.
John William Waterhouse was born in Rome in 1849, and his father was an English painter. Influenced by his father, a Yorkshire native, and his mother, a native of Italy, Waterhouse showed an early talent for painting. After studying in his father's studio as a child, he entered the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1870, first studying sculpture and then painting, and in 1874 his painting Sleep and His Half-Brother Death was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition to great acclaim. In 1876, his work After the Dance became the leading work in that year's exhibition. Later, Waterhouse came under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites. His works, mostly in oil, are known for the depictions of ancient Greek mythology, Arthurian legends, literary plays, and legendary women from history. His use of symbolism, vivid color, and beautiful light and shade expresses the "evil" and tragic nature of the mythological heroines.
Later Life and Death
In 1883 he married the daughter of an art school principal, a dark-eyed, round-faced woman who would later play a significant role in Waterhouse's art. Many paintings of Waterhouse were created with her as a model. For example, The Magic Circle, created in 1886, has wonderful details in grand and gorgeous scenery and beautiful characters modeled by Waterhouse's wife. On January 24, 1890, Waterhouse's father died, and he did not submit his work to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts that year. In 1895, Waterhouse became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. During this period, his art was so renowned that he became the equal of Sir Edward Burne Jones, and he created the work St. Cecilia, which drew closer to the idealism of the Academy.
Waterhouse is also considered a painter in the Pre-Raphaelite style. In addition to painting, he taught art, served on the Royal Academy of Arts committee, and was a member of various art associations. Waterhouse died of cancer on February 10, 1917, and produced 118 paintings during his lifetime.
The Lady of Shalott
Alma-Tadema heavily influenced Waterhouse’s early classical works, but later, Waterhouse added poetry to his work, and his themes were closely linked to literature. Waterhouse interpreted the perfect blend of literature and art in his own way, as a typical idealist art creator who aspired to romance, admired the Middle Ages, and believed that art must be a vehicle for some great faith beyond art. His talent and expert study of the subject matter, very thoroughly understood, had resulted in so many successful works. These works set the visualization standard for Western culture in general and literature in particular. For example, his series The Lady of Shalott, based on Alfred Tennyson's Poems, became Waterhouse's artistic foundation, which shocked the society of the time.