Saturday, April 1, 2006

John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse
How better to welcome Spring than with the paintings of John William Waterhouse.

Often considered a Pre-Raphaelite, Waterhouse was never actually a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was very influenced by them, however, and shared much of their subject matter.

Early in his career Waterhouse was more of a neo-classical painter, portraying Greek and Roman scenes, much like his contemporary Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. As time went on he came to share the Pre-Raphaelite’s passion for literary and mythological subjects, often painting many of the same subjects (in many cases in similar compositions) as Pre-Raphaelites like William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, John Everett Millais and Edward Byrne Jones. (See also the image of Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shallot, his most famous and most often reproduced painting, which I chose to accompany my first post on lines and colors, about the Art Renewal Center site.)

Waterhouse diverged from the Pre-Raphaelite painters, particularly in his approach to the handling of paint. Where the members of the brotherhood usually cultured a smooth, blended finish to their paintings, Waterhouse delighted in the sensuality of paint and his works are textured with painterly brushstrokes and obvious surface markings of discrete areas of color.

There are two excellent and comprehensive sites devoted to Waterhouse: The life and art of John William Waterhouse on www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.com and John William Waterhouse on jwwaterhouse.com. The first site (.org) has lots of drawings, preliminary sketches, alternate versions and studies for Waterhouse’s work.

Waterhouse is one of the best represented artists on the web and there are many good sources for images of his paintings, some of which are listed below. There is also a bounty of his work in print. A couple of good books at a reasonable price are J.W. Waterhouse by Peter Trippi and J W Waterhouse by Anthony Hobson.

Like the Pre-Raphaelites, Waterhouse’s images are bursting with vibrant colors, rich textures and the kind of glorious visual details that can only be drawn from an intimate study of nature and the world around us. Also like the Pre-Raphaelite artists, Waterhouse took great pleasure in the portrayal of beautiful women in detailed costumes and luxurious fabrics, as well as scenes depicting the visual bounty of the natural world and the English countryside, particularly in the Spring when that other beauty, Mother Nature, is really strutting her stuff.

One thought on “John William Waterhouse

  1. cassie windham

    Have just come across Lines and Colors. What a magnificent blog.

    Nice to see some JWW – and the reference to Tadema. There’s nothing wrong with a nice bit of eye-candy occasionally! I especially love his little painting of a boy lying in a field reading on a peaceful summer’s day. It’s on my list to put on my blog – a very minor affair compared to your own, I’m afraid. I’m just getting started and I’ve linked to Lines and Colors. I’ve also linked to Dan Brown! it’s sometimes fun to be frivolous about great things . . . and the trailer to the movie looks as though it will be visually impressive, if nothing else.

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