The women of Waterhouse adorn the walls of my bedroom. Ophelia, the Lady of Shallot, and the maiden of Boreas all peer out of their frames from my walls, yet innocent of the knowledge of the fates to befall them. In Waterhouse's works a Mermaid absently combs her hair on the rocky shore and Miranda studies the Tempest... the Nymphs entreat Hylas to join them in their lily-flecked waters... and Penelope patiently tends to her loom in waiting as she's precipitously wooed by her suitors. John William Waterhouse was stylistically a Pre-Raphaelite and classical painter, whose emphasis on female subjects from myth and literature focused on beauties from Keats to Tennyson to Homer for his subjects. Waterhouse depicted heroines, femme fatales and literary female victims in his lush works. Men are rarely depicted, and if so, they are most often the objects of attention of the femme fatale. His eye for painful beauty and infusion of literary substance evokes a resonating image that goes beyond the painted canvas.
He was born in Rome in 1849 where both of his English parents were resident painters. Many of his early works depict Italian settings and show his love for the place of his birth which he visited often during his lifetime. As a child, he moved to England and later studied at his father's studio as well as the Royal Academy, where he became a member in 1895. By the time the Lady of Shallot was purchased by the Tate in 1888 he was making a decent living as a painter. Waterhouse worked for many years creating over three hundred paintings and is considered one of the foremost of the Pre-Raphelites, though he was not part of the Brotherhood which included Rosetti, Millais and Holman-Hunt. Waterhouse grew ill and died 1917 - though his works influenced later artists such as James Draper and Byam Shaw. His grave is at Kensal Green Cemetary in London.
Locations of some of Waterhouse's Works
Lady of Shallott (1894) - Leeds City Museum
St. Eulia (1885), A Mermaid (1901) - Tate Gallery, London
Echo and Narcissus (1903) - Walker Gallery, Liverpool
Hylas and Water Nymphs (1896) - Manchester City Art Gallery
Penelope and her Suitors (1912) - Aberdeen
Ulysses and the Sirens (1891) -National Gallery of Australia