Saturday Art Choice: John William Waterhouse (English Pre-Raphaelite painter) 1849 – 1917 Head of a Young Girl, ca. 1880
John William Waterhouse (English Pre-Raphaelite painter) 1849 – 1917 Head of a Young Girl, ca. 1880 pencil on paper 16.5 x 15.5 cm. s.l.
“His models provide a theme of interest in themselves… the paintings show how as the years went by he continually sought his ideal vision of womanhood, rather than some character type adapted to each new subject. The remarkable thing is that he found her and remained faithful to her in his art, reflecting the distant ideal of Medieval Courtly love in the warmed mirrors of Italian passion and Greek sensuality.
John William Waterhouse is one of the few artists to combine influences from the two main currents in late nineteenth century British art: one derived from Pre-Raphaelitism, the other from French painting. He was a painter of poetical subjects drawn from Keats, Tennyson, Shakespeare and classical mythology. Although his subject matter and romantic approach owe much to Pre-Raphaelitism, his bold painterly technique derives from French artists such as Bastien-Lepage. Indeed all his friendships were made among the French-influenced artists of the Newlyn School, rather than the circles around Burne-Jones.
John William Waterhouse’s parents were both minor artists. He was born in Rome, although his family returned to London while he was still a child. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1870 and began to exhibit at the Society of British Artists in 1872, and the Royal Academy in 1874, making his debut as a painter of eastern and classical genre scenes and large reconstructions of incidents from ancient history. The culmination of this phase of his art was Mariamne, Wife of King Herod the Great, Going Forth to be Executed (exhibited Royal Academy 1887; Forbes Collection, London & New York). The following year he initiated his poetic phase with The Lady of Shalott, which was bought by Sir Henry Tate, and is today one of the most popular paintings in the Tate Gallery. Despite his preferred subject matter after this date, Waterhouse showed primarily at the Royal Academy, although he also exhibited a few works at the more `aesthetic’ venues of the Grosvenor and New Galleries. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1885 and Royal Academician in 1895. Anthony Hobson’s The Art and Life of J. W. Waterhouse RA, 1849-1917 appeared in 1980 (Christie’s and Studio Vista, London).”
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