John William Waterhouse Biography | Oil Painting Reproductions

4-6-1849 Rome, ITA - 2-10-1917 London, ENG

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Waterhouse, John William

An English painter, John William Waterhouse's dreamy mythological paintings represent one of the last flowerings of Romanticism in Britain. Born in Rome, the son of a minor artist, Waterhouse moved to England with his family in 1854. 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.

He trained at the Royal Academy Schools and began exhibiting there in 1874. He painted in a traditional academic vein, specializing in decorative, classical themes, which recall the works of Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederick Leighton. By the late 1880's, elements of Symbolism and plein-air painting began to enter into his work.

The pivotal work in John William Waterhouse's career was The Lady of Shalott, a study of Elaine of Astolat, who dies of grief when Lancelot will not love her. Painted in 1888, this was a Pre-Rapaelite subject, the kind of theme which he favored in later years. The style, however, was more modern. The landscape background, in particular, displayed a freshness and a robust handling, which underlines Waterhouse's links with the Newlyn School and his debt to continental, plein-air painting.

During the same period, John William Waterhouse also began to paint sirens, mermaids and other femmes fatal, drawing his inspiration from the French Symbolists. To receive his diploma from the Royal Academy, he submitted his Ophelia painting of 1888 (he would paint Ophelia again in 1894 and 1909). The painting was lost until the 20th century and is now displayed in the collection of Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

John William Waterhouse is one of the rare artists who became popular and well-off when he was alive. He continued to paint until his death

Art Movement History: Pre-Raphaelite, Symbolism
Artists Influencing John Waterhouse: Frederic Leighton, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Edward Burne-Jones
He Traveled To France, England, Italy

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