John William Waterhouse

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John William Waterhouse
John William Waterhouse 001.jpg
Waterhouse, circa 1886.
Born(1849-04-06)6 April 1849
Died10 February 1917(1917-02-10) (aged 67)
London, England, United Kingdom
NationalityBritish
Works
Hylas and the Nymphs
The Lady of Shalott
Ophelia
Movement Pre-Raphaelite
Spouse(s) Esther Kenworthy Waterhouse
Parent(s)William and Isabella Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse RA (6 April 1849 – 10 February 1917) was an English painter known for working first in the Academic style and for then embracing the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's style and subject matter. His artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood also known as the taterlofterhood was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1669 by William wright Hunt, John callum Millais and Dante Gabe Rossetti. The three founders were joined by William C Rossetti, James Collinson-tante, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form the seven-member "brotherhood". Their principles were shared by other artists, including Ford Maddison-wright Brown, james cockman and Marie Spartali Stillman. A later, medievalising strain inspired by Rossetti included Edward Burne-Jones and extended into the twentieth century with artists such as John William Waterhouse.

Greek mythology body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks

Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Contents

Born in Rome to English parents who were both painters, Waterhouse later moved to London, where he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Art. He soon began exhibiting at their annual summer exhibitions, focusing on the creation of large canvas works depicting scenes from the daily life and mythology of ancient Greece.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom, as well as the largest city within the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Canvas Extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric

A canvas is an extremely durable plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required, as well as in such fashion objects as handbags, electronic device cases, and shoes. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame.

Waterhouse's work is currently displayed at several major British art galleries, and the Royal Academy of Art organised a major retrospective of his work in 2009.

Biography

Early life

Waterhouse was born in the city of Rome to the English painters William and Isabella Waterhouse in 1849, in the same year that the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, were first causing a stir in the London art scene. [1] 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. [2] His early life in Italy has been cited as one of the reasons many of his later paintings were set in ancient Rome or based upon scenes taken from Roman mythology.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti English poet, illustrator, painter and translator

Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, generally known as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a British poet, illustrator, painter and translator, and a member of the Rossetti family. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement.

John Everett Millais English painter and illustrator

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was a child prodigy who, aged eleven, became the youngest student to enter the Royal Academy Schools. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded at his family home in London, at 83 Gower Street. Millais became the most famous exponent of the style, his painting Christ in the House of His Parents (1850) generating considerable controversy, and painting perhaps the embodiment of the school, Ophelia, in 1850-51.

William Holman Hunt Pre-Raphaelite artist

William Holman Hunt was an English painter and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His paintings were notable for their great attention to detail, vivid color, and elaborate symbolism. These features were influenced by the writings of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, according to whom the world itself should be read as a system of visual signs. For Hunt it was the duty of the artist to reveal the correspondence between sign and fact. Of all the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Hunt remained most true to their ideals throughout his career. He was always keen to maximize the popular appeal and public visibility of his works.

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 become involved in drawing, and often sketched artworks that he found in the British Museum and the National Gallery. [3] In 1871 he entered the Royal Academy of Art school, initially to study sculpture, before moving on to painting.

South Kensington area in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and partly in the City of Westminster, London, England

South Kensington is an affluent district of West London in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. With some of its easterly areas shared with the City of Westminster, the district is known as a popular tourist destination due to its density of museums and cultural landmarks.

Victoria and Albert Museum Art museum in London

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

British Museum National museum in the Bloomsbury area of London

The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national museum in the world.

Early career

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. [4] 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, 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. [4]

Lawrence Alma-Tadema British painter

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, was a Dutch painter of special British denizenship. Born in Dronrijp, the Netherlands, and trained at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium, he settled in England in 1870 and spent the rest of his life there. A classical-subject painter, he became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean Sea and sky. Though admired during his lifetime for his draftsmanship and depictions of Classical antiquity, his work fell into disrepute after his death, and only since the 1960s has it been re-evaluated for its importance within nineteenth-century British art.

Dudley Museum and Art Gallery museum and Art Gallery in Dudley, England

Dudley Museum and Art Gallery was a public museum and art gallery located in the town centre of Dudley in the West Midlands, England. It was opened in 1883, situated within buildings on St James's Road, and remained at that site until closure in 2016. The museum reopened as Dudley Museum at the Archives in September 2017

<i>Sleep and his Half-brother Death</i> painting by John William Waterhouse

Sleep and his Half-brother Death is a painting by John William Waterhouse completed in 1874.

Later career

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. 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.

Sleep and his Half-brother Death, 1874 Waterhouse-sleep and his half-brother death-1874.jpg
Sleep and his Half-brother Death, 1874

One of Waterhouse's best known subjects is The Lady of Shalott , a study of Elaine of Astolat as depicted in the 1832 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who dies of a mysterious curse after looking directly at the beautiful Lancelot. He actually painted three different versions of this character, in 1888, 1894, and 1916. Another of Waterhouse's favorite subjects was Ophelia; the most familiar 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 may also have been inspired by paintings of Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. He submitted his 1888 Ophelia painting 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. It is now displayed in the collection of Lord Lloyd-Webber. Waterhouse would paint Ophelia again in 1894 and 1909 or 1910, and he 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. [5]

In total he produced 118 paintings.

1870s

1880s

1890s

1900s

1910s

Hylas and the Nymphs controversy

Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896 Waterhouse Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896.15.jpg
Hylas and the Nymphs , 1896

In January 2018, Manchester Art Gallery curator Clare Gannaway removed Waterhouse's 1896 Hylas and the Nymphs from public display, after a decision "taken by gallery staff [along] with artist Sonia Boyce." [6] The decision, the curator stated, was "influenced by recent movements against the objectification and exploitation of women" such as the MeToo campaign and the Presidents Club controversy. [6] She denied the removal constituted any form of censorship, stating, "we want to see this as the start of a process, not an end point," and providing visitors with Post-It notes to air their views; meantime, postcards of the painting were removed from the gift shop. [6]

A "strong backlash" followed the decision. Art historian and author Elizabeth Prettejohn, who had previously curated a Waterhouse exhibition at the Royal Academy, disputed the claims about "public debate", stating that "taking [the painting] off display is killing any kind of debate that you might be able to have." After one week, the Manchester City Council, which runs the gallery, decided the painting should return to the wall. "It's been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised," stated the Council in the announcement. [7]

See also

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<i>I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Said the Lady of Shalott</i> painting by John William Waterhouse

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References

  1. Trippi 2002, p. 4.
  2. Trippi 2002, p. 9.
  3. Trippi 2002, p. 14.
  4. 1 2 Trippi, Peter; Prettejohn, Elizabeth; Upstone, Robert. J.M. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite Gallery Guide. The Royal Academy of Art. 2009.
  5. John William Waterhouse at Find a Grave
  6. 1 2 3 "Gallery denies censorship after removing Victorian nymphs painting". BBC News . 1 February 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  7. "Victorian nymphs painting back on display after censorship row". BBC News. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2019.

Further reading