Little is known of Waterhouse’s private life–even the identities of his favourite models, who appear so frequently in his paintings, are not known for certain although recent research has suggested possible names.
Why this website?
This site originated in the late 1990s as a way to publish and disseminate information about Waterhouse to a wider audience via the internet. Waterhouse’s legacy had been somewhat neglected for most of the 20th century: his art, along with that created by many of his contemporaries, fell rapidly out of fashion as a result of the impact of World War I and the subsequent changes in British society over the ensuing decades. However, in the late 1960s/early 1970s there was a gradual revival of interest in Victorian and Edwardian art which has been sustained to the present day. Waterhouse was honoured with a retrospective exhibition in 1978, and has been the subject of two monographs published within the last five years, the most notable being Peter Trippi’s award-winning J.W. Waterhouse (Phaidon Press, 2002). Nowadays, several of Waterhouse’s paintings, for example The Lady of Shalott (1888) and Ophelia (1894), can be ranked among the most recognizable, and beloved, of 19th century British art. This website aims to publish the latest information relating to John William Waterhouse, and to serve as an introduction to Waterhouse’s life and work.
Diogenes of Sinope, d. c.320 BC, was a Greek philosopher, perhaps the most noted of the Cynics. He pursued the Cynic ideal of self-sufficiency, a life that was natural and not dependent upon the nonessential luxuries of civilization. A student of Antisthenes, he is credited with the development of the chreia (moral epigram), with a scandalous attack of convention entitled Republic (which influenced Zeno of Citium), and with tragedies illustrative of the human predicament. Because Diogenes believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory, he made his life a protest against what he thought of as a corrupt society. He is said to have lived in a large tub, rather than house, and to have gone about Athens with a lantern in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man–but never finding one. In later art, Diogenes is often depicted in a torn cloak, with a dog, carrying a lantern.
During the adventure of the Argonauts, Jason put ashore at Colchis where he met Medea, the daughter of Aeetes, and was bewitched by her beauty. Aeetes, the King of Colchis, obstructed Jason’s quest for the golden fleece by setting him an impossible task, but Medea, being in love with him, helped him perform it by magic and escaped with him to Greece. Overcome by wrath, Aeetes pursued her and, in an effort to delay his advances, Medea murdered her brother, strewing his mutilated limbs in her father’s path. On their arrival at Iolcos, Medea rejuvenated Jason’s father Aeson by boiling him with magic herbs but her evil trickery forced them to flee to Corinth, where Jason deserted her for Glauce. Medea took revenge by slaughtering their children and poisoning her rival.
Here you will find a selection of articles about Waterhouse, ranging from biographical information to information about his models. The articles have been organized within the following categories:
Biography: A biography of John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). Photographs: A selection of photos and illustrations of Waterhouse and his family. Edwardian Art and its Chief Representatives: A painting of Waterhouse and other members of the Royal Academy. The Blue Plaque: Some information about the unveiling of the English Heritage Blue Plaque at Waterhouse’s home in St. John’s Wood, London. The Final Resting Place: Waterhouse’s grave at Kensal Green Cemetery. Timeline: A timeline of Waterhouse’s art exhibits, and of key events in his life.
The Daily Telegraph The London Times The West London Gazette
Contemporary Commentary: Browse a selection of references to John William Waterhouse, first published in art journals, newspapers and books during Waterhouse’s lifetime (1849-1917).
Lost (and Found): A list of Waterhouse’s paintings which are unlocated.
Variations on a Theme: Waterhouse produced many sketches for his paintings, and painted several works based on a common theme.
On View: Where to view Waterhouse’s work today.
Danaë in colour: A look at Danaë, exhibited in 1892, stolen in 1947 and known to us only in black and white.
*J.W. Waterhouse’s Rape of Persephone: The full text of a presentation given by Peter Trippi, biographer of John William Waterhouse and director of the Dahesh Museum of Art, at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the College Art Association in Atlanta, Georgia (February 16-19 2005).
*Waterhouse Symposium: A review by Scott Thomas Buckle of the 2002 Waterhouse Symposium at Tate Britain.
*Sketches from a private collection
A Waterhouse Letter: A rare example of a letter written by Waterhouse. *A Waterhouse Sketch Discovered: Scott Thomas Buckle writes about a recently discovered sketch which introduces the name of a well-known Victorian male model to Waterhouse’s oeuvre. *The Waterhouse Ideal: A new essay by Cathy Baker about Waterhouse’s models.
Collecting Waterhouse: A look at prices fetched by Waterhouse’s works at auction, and the Antiques Roadshow finds. In the News: Highlighting news articles which have mentioned John William Waterhouse recently.
Exhibitions of Waterhouse’s pictures
Exhibition Archive: A list of exhibitions featuring the work of Waterhouse which have taken place from 1889 to the present day. The Retrospective Exhibition of 1978: A look at the retrospective Waterhouse exhibition which took place in 1978 at the Mappin Art Gallery in Sheffield.
Selected Poetry new!
Browse Selected Poetry John William Waterhouse drew upon various sources as inspirations for his paintings, numbered among which were poems by British poets of the early-mid 19th century, for example, Alfred Lord Tennyson and John Keats.
Cecilia lived in Rome around 230 AD. She is famous for taking a lifelong vow of chastity which she kept despite her enforced marriage. She converted her husband to Christianity and both suffered martyrdom. In medieval times, a misreading of her Acts led to her connection with church music and when the Academy of Music was established at Rome in 1584, she was adopted as its patroness. Her saint’s day is celebrated on 22 November.
This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1895, with the quotation from Tennyson’s ‘The Palace of Art’:
‘In a clear walled city on the sea. Near gilded organ pipes – slept St. Cecily’.
A reviewer in The Art Journal wrote: in St Cecilia, the important work which represents nearly two years unremitting toil and experiment, the aim is wholly decorative, the colour superb, and the painting swift and direct; that of a man who has reached his goal. The feeling is entirely mediaeval… The effect is decorative first, then somewhat ecclesiastic; entirely removed from realism and the world of our daily life.’
This painting was auctioned in June 2000 and fetched a world-record price for a Victorian painting.