John William

United Kingdom • 1849−1917

Biography and information

John William Waterhouse (English John William Waterhouse, April 6, 1849, Rome - February 10, 1917, London). The famous English painter, whose work belongs to creativity pre-Raphaelite.

Features of the artist: Waterhouse, like other Pre-Raphaelite artists, sought to escape from reality, resorting to mythological and biblical scenes, adopting images from the legends of Old England, chivalrous novels. The main character of his painting is an image of a strong and domineering woman, corresponding to the canons of the beauty of the Victorian era, but at the same time gentle and inviting. His heroines are Ophelia and Cleopatra, Penelope and Psyche, sorceresses and spellcasters, animate forces of nature and mythical creatures. Waterhouse gave preference to the tragic and cruel plots, but at the same time he had the talent to find in them stoic power, tranquility and beauty.

Famous paintings by the artist: "Lady Shallot in a boat","Soul of rose","Ophelia","North wind","Psyche penetrating Cupid's garden","Witch".

John William Waterhouse, whose works number more than two hundred, throughout his life regularly exhibited his paintings, sold them in England and beyond. This is the rare type of artist who achieved his fame in life, which allowed his family to live in prosperity. Today he is one of the most expensive painters, and his canvases are not only a sign of good taste, but also a profitable financial investment. For example, in July 2016, his painting “Miranda»From the private collection was sold for 581 thousand pounds. The most expensive canvas of the author - "Saint Cecilia, For which was given in 2006 6.6 million pounds sterling at Christie's.

The early years of the work of John Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse was born Rome in 1849. It is interesting that this year the first members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood caused a stir in London. His parents were English artists, and the creative environment surrounded the future painter from infancy. Five years after the birth of Waterhouse, the family returned to London, where they settled in a house near the Victoria and Albert Museum. In childhood, the boy often worked with his father, made sketches from exhibits from the National Gallery and the British Museum. At 21, he successfully passes the exam at the Royal Academy of Arts, where he first begins to study sculpture and only then painting.

The first works of John William Waterhouse were exhibited in the Dudley Museum. They were created under the impression of fashionable painters at the end of the XIX century: Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederick Leighton, whose artistic images were distinguished by ancient sensuality and cold academism. However, the time of imitation was short, and a young man at the age of 25 presented at the exhibition a large-scale work “Sleep and his stepbrother Death". From that day until the end of the artist's life, she never ceased to exhibit. Critics and viewers greeted this picture with sincere delight. Already here one can point out the main features of the artist’s entire creativity: the use of bright and at the same time hypnotically entranced images, symbolism both in the general idea and in some details. From here begins a report on the popularity of Waterhouse.

Formation and recognition

In 1883, Waterhouse, at the age of thirty-four, married the artist Esther Kenworthy. It is interesting that among her eight brothers and sisters, she was the only one who was engaged in creative work, wrote still lifes and exhibited her works. The couple had two children who died in infancy.

In 1885, the artist became a member of the Royal Academy and only in 1895 an academician. Waterhouse actively participates in the artistic life of London, regularly exhibits and teaches painting at St John's Wood School of Art.

The most famous works of Waterhouse are always scenes from ancient myths, fabulous and historical characters, shrouded in mysteries and secrets. The master begins to create special feminine characters - strong, possessing the power of both real and magic, freedom-loving, full of restrained grace and sensual. This view fits well into the situation in Victorian England, where women first began to show political activity and participate in elections.

«Lady Shallot in a boat»1888 - this is the famous image of the heroine of the ballad Alfred Tennyson, almost the first picture that comes to mind the majority at the mention of the name of the artist. The magic maiden was depicted on two canvases: in 1894 and in 1915 years.
One of Waterhouse's bright female images is Ophelia, to whom the series of works is dedicated. Unfortunately, the author failed to finish writing it to the end because of a serious illness. To get a diploma at the Royal Academy, he presented exactly Opheliacreated in 1889.

Since his life, Waterhouse has been in good standing with fellow artists, art historians and the general public. He was at the right time in the right place, his talent was understood and approved. It can be considered a great luck for a person of creative environment, it is only necessary to get acquainted with the biographies of other artists. His works went out of fashion almost immediately after his death and again became interesting to critics and viewers at the end of the twentieth century. This is eloquently indicated by the fact that the image of the artist appeared on a British postage stamp in 1992.

Pictures of John William Waterhouse are scattered around the world. They belong to the largest museums in the UK, Australia and other countries. Many works are in private collections in England, USA and Russia.

Models and artist

In the center of the works of John William Waterhouse, the image of a mythical woman, far from reality. However, there were lively English miss and mrs who posed for the artist, helping to embody his idea on canvas. For example, many early portraits, as well as the famous “Lady Shallot in a boat” and “North wind"Were written with the artist's sister - Mary Waterhouse.

It is interesting that Esther Waterhouse, the author's spouse, is rarely found in his work, only in minor portraits and everyday sketches. It was believed that "Lady Shallot in a boat" was written from her, but researchers recently denied this.

An attentive observer will note that many of John William Waterhouse’s paintings have the same model: a red-haired girl with a thin profile. It is believed that this Gwendolyn Gunn - a model and at the same time a friend of the painter's family. For many years she communicated with him and maintained friendly relations with Esther after the death of the painter.

The painting “The Dream and His Step-Brother Death”, which made the artist famous, owes not only his talent, but also Miss Kate Double. From it were written both young men, the similarity of which indicates their kinship.

Muriel Foster was for a long time the muse of the artist, and thanks to her there is the famous female image "Witch". Mary Lloyd is another model of Waterhouse, but better known as the girl from the painting "Flaming juneLeighton.

People who knew Waterhouse noted that he maintained a very reserved relationship with his models, never allowing ambiguity.

John Waterhouse until the end of life was engaged in painting, despite the suffering that brought him cancer. In February 1917, he died and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva