John William Waterhouse was an English painter known for his romanticized depictions of mythology and classical subjects. His early career was defined by his paintings of female characters from literature and mythology, many of which were inspired by the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists such as John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 

Boreas

Waterhouse was born in Rome, Italy on April 6, 1849 to English parents, William and Isabella. They were both artistic and encouraged his creativity from an early age. In 1854, the Waterhouses returned to England and settled into a comfortable home in South Kensington, London – situated just minutes from the newly built Victoria and Albert Museum which was filled with art and antiquities from around the world.

Cleopatra

He enrolled in the Royal Academy of Art in 1871, and began studying sculpture before moving on to painting. His art career took off in the 1880s with a series of paintings inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists who sought to revive the style and subject matter of medieval painting. 

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Waterhouse was particularly drawn to the work of John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and he began to paint scenes from Arthurian legend and classical mythology. These paintings brought him great acclaim, and led to commissions from wealthy patrons.

Miranda

Waterhouse was particularly drawn to the work of John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and he began to paint scenes from Arthurian legend and classical mythology. These paintings brought him great acclaim, and led to commissions from wealthy patrons.

The Enchanted Garden

In 1883, Waterhouse married Esther Kenworthy, who happened to be an artist herself, as well as the daughter of an art teacher. Initially, the couple lived in an artistic colony in Primrose Hill, near Regent’s Park in London. But around 1900, they moved to St John’s Wood, in Westminster, London.

The Lady of Shalott

One of Waterhouse’s best known subjects is The Lady of Shalott, from the 1832 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who dies of a mysterious curse after looking directly at the beautiful Lancelot. 

Another of Waterhouse’s most famous paintings is Ophelia, from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. The painting depicts her just before her death, putting flowers in her hair as she sits on a tree branch leaning over a lake. 

Ophelia

In the 1890s, Waterhouse shifted away from Pre-Raphaelite themes, instead exploring other subjects such as contemporary life, allegorical scenes, and religious iconography. He also began to experiment with different painting styles, incorporating elements of Impressionism and Japanese woodblock prints into his work. Despite this change in direction, Waterhouse continued to enjoy success and critical acclaim throughout the rest of his career.

The Mystic Wood

Waterhouse died at his home in London on February 10, 1917, at the age of 67. His work was hugely influential to subsequent generations of artists, and helped to define the aesthetic of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. 


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