John William Waterhouse
(1849 - 1917)
John William Waterhouse was active/lived in England, Italy. John Waterhouse is known for pre-raphaelite female mythology figure painting.
John William Waterhouse
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Biography from the Archives of askART
John William Waterhouse was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter who is
most famous for his depictions of female characters from Greek and
Biography from Odon Wagner Gallery
Waterhouse was one of the final Pre-Raphaelite artists, being most
productive in the latter decades of the 19th century and early decades
of the 20th, long after the era of the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood. Because of this, he has been referred to as "the
modern Pre-Raphaelite". Also he incorporated techniques borrowed
from the French Impressionists into his work.
Waterhouse was born in the city of Rome to the British painters William
and Isabella Waterhouse in 1849, in the same year that the members of
the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Rossetti, John Millais
and William Holman Hunt, were first causing a stir in the London art
scene. The exact date of his birth is unknown, though he was
baptised on 6 April, and the later scholar of Waterhouse's work, Peter
Trippi, believed that he was born between 1 and 23 January. His
early life in Italy has been cited as one of the reasons why many of
his later paintings were set in ancient Rome or based upon scenes taken
from Roman mythology.
In 1854, the Waterhouses returned to England and moved to a newly built
house in South Kensington, London, which was near to the newly founded
Victoria and Albert Museum. Waterhouse, or 'Nino' as he was nicknamed,
coming from an artistic family, was encouraged to get involved in
drawing, 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
Waterhouse's early works were not Pre-Raphaelite in nature, but were of
classical themes in the spirit of Alma-Tadema and Frederic
Leighton. These early works were exhibited at the Dudley Gallery,
and the Society of British Artists, and 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. He
then went from strength to strength in the London art scene, with his
1876 piece After the Dance being given the prime position in
that year's summer exhibition. Perhaps due to his success, his
paintings typically became larger and larger in size.
In 1883 he married Esther Kenworthy, the daughter of an art
schoolmaster from Ealing who had exhibited her own flower-paintings at
the Royal Academy and elsewhere. They did not have any
children. 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.
One of Waterhouse's most famous paintings is The Lady of Shalott,
a study of Elaine of Astolat, who dies of grief when Lancelot will not
love her. He actually painted three different versions of this
character, in 1888, 1894, and 1916. Another of Waterhouse's
favorite subjects was Ophelia; the most famous of his paintings of
Ophelia depicts her just before her death, putting flowers in her hair
as she sits on a tree branch leaning over a lake. Like The Lady of Shalott
and other Waterhouse paintings, it deals with a woman dying in or near
water. He also may have been inspired by paintings of Ophelia by
Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Millais. He submitted his Ophelia
painting of 1888 in order to receive his diploma from the Royal
Academy. (He had originally wanted to submit a painting titled "A
Mermaid", but it was not completed in time.) After this, the painting
was lost until the 20th century, and is now displayed in the collection
of Lord Lloyd-Webber. Waterhouse would paint Ophelia again in
1894 and 1909 or 1910, and planned another painting in the series,
called "Ophelia in the Churchyard".
Waterhouse could not finish the series of Ophelia paintings because he
was gravely ill with cancer by 1915. He died two years later, and
his grave can be found at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.
One of the leading figures of the Victorian school of art and one of Britain's most famous and best-loved painters today, J.W. Waterhouse was born in Rome, the son of artist parents. Although he lived in England for much of his life, his inspiration was drawn from Italy, where his parents moved in pursuit of great art. They eventually moved back to England some time in the late 1850's.
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While growing up, Waterhouse assisted his father in art studio where the young Waterhouse developed his talents for sculpting and painting. In England, after several attempts at admission to the Royal Academy, he finally succeeded entrance in 1870. In 1885, Waterhouse became an Associate of the Royal Academy, and then a full member, Royal Academician, in 1895.
Some of Waterhouse's earlier works were focused on Italian themes and scenery, reflecting his love for his birth place. Later on, his works picked up the styles and classical themes of Pre-raphaelites such as Alma-Tadema and Frederick Leighton. Waterhouse went on to paint well over 200 paintings depicting classical mythogolgy, historical and literary subjects, particularly those of Roman mythology and classic English poets such as Keats and Tennyson. Femme fatale is a common theme in his works, as most are of beautiful elegiac women.
Waterhouse is one of the rare artists who became popular and relatively well off financially when he was still alive. He continued to paint until his death on the 10th of February, 1917 after a long illness. His style became a major influence on many of the later Pre-raphaelites including Frank Dicksee and Herber James Draper.
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