Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More about John William Waterhouse

Taking a break from cloud 9 and becoming a first time grandma to present a little more on one of my most favorite artists, John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) an English Pre-Raphaelite painter most notable for his paintings of female characters from Greek and Arthurian mythology. Being one of the latest in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, he was also influenced by the later French Impressionists. He was born in Rome to British painters William and Isabella Waterhouse and it is because of his Roman birth that many of his paintings were set in ancient Rome or based upon stories from Roman mythology. Some of Waterhouse's most famous paintings were his three versions of The Lady of Shalott, a study of Elaine of Astolat who dies from grief when Sir Lancelot will not love her. Based on the famous poem by the same name written by Alfred Lord Tennyson it tells the tale of the beautiful Lady Elaine who was forced to spend her days and nights weaving in a tower the scenes she saw reflected daily in the mirror for she was never to look down at the town or suffer the curse of which she knew not the effect. But when Sir Lancelot came riding through the street below Lady Elaine defys the curse and looks to admire the handsome knight, later dying as she floated in a boat down to Camelot. From The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson:

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.
And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;

Another of his favorite subjects was Shakespeare's Ophelia from Hamlet.  Above are a few of my favorite paintings by Waterhouse.


  1. Such beautiful images. I can see why he is one of your favorites.

  2. Beautiful post, I have always admired the mermaids in the water image.

  3. Absolutely beautiful paintings, Maureen. You've made me want to look for more.

  4. I have loved JWW remarkable paintings since I was in high school. When I found a print of Lady Elaine, I was very excited, being a handweaver, myself! It now hangs, regally framed, in my living room. These images are exquisite! JWW's skills as a painter, the myth-inspired images, his depiction of nature and his use of color are unparalled in the Pre-Raphaelite genre. Thank's for these and the accompanying info, Maureen!


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