John William Waterhouse was a painter of classical, historical and literary subjects. He was born in Rome in 1849, where his father worked as a painter. In the 1850s the family returned to England. Before entering the Royal Academy schools in 1870, Waterhouse assisted his father in his studio. His early works were of classical themes in the spirit of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton, and were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Society of British Artists and the Dudley Gallery. In the late 1870s and the 1880s, Waterhouse made several trips to Italy, where he painted genre scenes.
In 1883 Waterhouse married to Esther Kenworthy. He used to paint primarly in oils. In 1884 his painting Consulting The Oracle, his Royal Academy submission, gained favourable reviews. His painting Lady Of Shalott, reveals Waterhouse's growing interest in The Pre-Raphaelites.
In many of his works models are depicted as femme fatales, such as Circe Invidiosa, Cleopatra, La Belle Dame Sans Merci and several versions of Lamia.
In 1885 Waterhouse was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and a full member in 1895. His RA diploma work was A Mermaid. However, as this painting was not completed until 1900, Waterhouse offered his Ophelia of 1888 as his temporary submission.
consulting the oracle
In the mid-1880s Waterhouse began exhibiting with the Grosvenor Gallery and its successor, the New Gallery, as well as at provincial exhibitions in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. Paintings of this period, such as Mariamne, were exhibited widely in England and abroad as part of the international symbolist movement. In the 1890s Waterhouse began to exhibit portraits. In 1900 he was the primary instigator of the Artists' War Fund, creating Destiny, and contributing to a theatrical performance. The pictures offered to the War Fund were auctioned at Christie's. In 1901 he moved to St John's Wood and joined the St John's Wood Arts Club, a social organization that included Alma-Tadema and George Clausen. He also served on the advisory council of the St. John's Wood Art School where young and upcoming "neo Pre-Raphaelite" artists such as Byam Shaw numbered amongst his pupils.
Despite suffering from increasing frailty during the final decade of his life, Waterhouse continued painting until his death from cancer in 1917. From 1908-1914 he painted a series of paintings based upon the Persephone legend. They were followed by pictures based upon literature and mythology in 1916 (Miranda, Tristram and Isolde). One of his final works was The Enchanted Garden, left unfinished on his easel at his death, and now in the collection of the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool.
hylas and the nymphs
echo and the narcissus
the awakening of adonis
my sweet rose
Penelope and the suitors
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