birth place: Rome Italy
birth date: 6 April 1849
zodiac sign: Aries
death place: London England
death date: 10 February 1917
Profile of John William Waterhouse
John William Waterhouse was an English painter known for working first in the Academic style and for then embracing the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's style and subject matter. His artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.
Born in Rome to English parents who were both painters, Waterhouse later moved to London, where he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Art. He soon began exhibiting at their annual summer exhibitions, focusing on the creation of large canvas works depicting scenes from the daily life and mythology of ancient Greece.
“ … Waterhouse is among the most popular Victorian Artists, and many of his paintings have become icons of femininity recognized the world over. With the glowing colour, compelling composition and Impressionist-infected technique, these paintings are admired for their beauty, yet at the same time have the power to transport viewers into a romantic world of myth and legend. Waterhouse’s art reflects, not only his distinctive ideal of female beauty, but also a lifelong fascination with the Romantic and Symbolistic themes of passion, magic and transformation, spiritual, erotic and physical … like other Victorian artists, Waterhouse was neglected throughout much of the 20th century, but today he is acknowledged as a crucial inheritor of the Pre-Raphaelite legacy.”
Biography of John William Waterhouse
John William Waterhouse was born in the city of Rome to the English painters William and Isabella Waterhouse in 1849, and his early life in Italy has been cited as one of the reasons many of his later paintings were set in ancient Rome or based upon scenes taken from Roman mythology.
In 1854, Waterhouses' parents returned to England and moved to a newly built house in South Kensington, London. Waterhouse was encouraged to draw, and often sketched artworks that he found in the British Museum and the National Gallery.
In 1871 he entered the Royal Academy of Art school, initially to study sculpture, before moving on to painting.
John William Waterhouse's early works were not Pre-Raphaelite in nature, but were of classical themes in the spirit of Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton.
In 1874 his painting Sleep and his Half-brother Death was exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition. The painting was a success and Waterhouse would exhibit at the annual exhibition every year until 1916, with the exception of 1890 and 1915.
In 1883 Waterhouse married Esther Kenworthy, the daughter of an art schoolmaster from Ealing who had exhibited her own flower-paintings at the Royal Academy and elsewhere.
In 1895 Waterhouse was elected to the status of full Academician. He taught at the St. John's Wood Art School, joined the St John's Wood Arts Club, and served on the Royal Academy Council.
Subjects of John William Waterhouse
One of Waterhouse's best known subjects is The Lady of Shalott, a study of Elaine of Astolat as depicted in the 1832 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who dies of a mysterious curse after looking directly at the beautiful Lancelot. He actually painted three different versions of this character, in 1888, 1894, and 1916.
But in her web she still delights
Another of Waterhouse's favorite subjects was Ophelia which could have been inspired by paintings of Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. He submitted his 1888 Ophelia painting in order to receive his diploma from the Royal Academy.
Waterhouse would paint Ophelia again in 1894 and 1910, and the 1894 version is perhaps the most familiar one which depicts Ophelia just before her death, putting flowers in her hair as she sits on a tree branch leaning over a lake.
John William Waterhouse had planned another painting in the series, called Ophelia in the Churchyard but could not finish it because he was gravely ill with cancer by 1915, and died two years later.