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John William Waterhouse

Updated on February 8, 2012

John William Waterhouse aka Nino

Waterhouse, known to his family and friends as Nino, was born in Italy in 1849 to English parents. He moved to London at an early age. His father was an artist and John William followed in his footsteps. This lens is dedicated to my favorite Waterhouse paintings, but there are over 200 beautiful works of Art known to have been painted by him (and many fakes, that he had nothing to do with).


His probably most famous painting is entitled "My Sweet Rose," from 1908

Ophelia by John William Waterhouse

Both pictures depict Ophelia, a character Waterhouse tried to capture in various paintings. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia is a pretty woman of weak character, who is influenced by her Father and others to abandon Hamlet who truly loves her. Being torn between her loyalty to her Father, brother, and family, she rejects Hamlet but finds no solace and peace in her own decision, a conflict that eventually costs her sanity.

The first painting is from 1905, Oil on canvas, Julian Hartnoll Collection. Actual Size (W x H): 61cm x 102cm = 24.03" x 40.19"

The second painting (Ophelia sitting)

John William Waterhouse Biography

As a young boy, Waterhouse helped his father in the Art studio and made his first wing trials with sculptures as well as painting. He gained entry to the Royal Academy in 1870, after many failed attempts. Just 15 years later, in 1885, he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and became a full member in 1895.

Although sometimes referred to as a Pre-Raphaelite painter, Waterhouse was a Neo-Classic painter. His early works included many Italian themes, an openly admitted affection for the country he was born in. In his later career the typical themes of Pre-Raphaelite masters appeared in his works, those often depicted by other Pre-Raphaelite masters like Alma-Tadema and Sir Frederick Leighton. Altogehter, he painted more than 200 paintings. His favorite topics were figures from the classical Greek mythogolgy, Roman mythology, and heroes and heroines of classic English poets such as Keats, Tennyson, Lord Byron and Shakespeare.

Waterhouse is one of the few artists who enjoyed fame and financial security during his lifetime. His work and legacy impacted some other Pre-Raphaelites, among these Frank Dicksee.

Not all of Waterhouse's Art pieces are found in public collections, some have been purchased by private Art collectors. However, the majority of his paintings remains in gallery ownership in England. Among these is "The Lady of Shalott" - 1888, which can be found in the Tate Gallery in London; "Hylas and the Nymphs" - 1896, at Manchester City Art Gallery, and "Echo and Narcissus" - date unknown, at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Some of his works found outside of Great Britain are: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (Germany); Penelope and the Suitors (Scotland); and Circe Invidiosa (Australia).

Below: The Lady of Shalott on Boat. (1888) Oil on canvas

Tate Gallery, London, England

Actual Size (W x H): 200cm x 153cm = 78.80" x 60.28"

John William Waterhouse: After The Dance 1876

Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Actual Size (W x H): 127cm x 76.2cm = 50.04" x 30.02"

John William Waterhouse: Circe offering the Cup 1891

Oil on canvas. Oldham Art Gallery, Oldham, England

Actual Size (W x H): 92cm x 149cm = 36.25" x 58.71"

John William Waterhouse: Fair Rosamund 1905

Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Actual Size (W x H): 72cm x 96.5cm = 28.37" x 38.02"

John William Waterhouse: I am Half Sick of The Shadows 1915

Oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Actual Size (W x H): 74cm x 100cm = 29.16" x 39.40"

Waterhouse on YouTube

John William Waterhosue: Lamia 1905

Unknown Location

John William Waterhouse: Psyche Opening The Golden Box 1903

Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Actual Size (W x H): 74cm x 117cm = 29.16" x 46.10"

John William Waterhouse: The Crystal Ball 1902

Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Actual Size (W x H): 88cm x 121cm = 34.67" x 47.67"

John William Waterhouse: The Sorceress 1913

Oil on canvas. Peter Nahum Collection

Actual Size (W x H): 109cm x 74cm = 42.95" x 29.16"

John William Waterhouse: Thisbe 1909

Oil on canvas. Private Collection.

Actual Size (W x H): 58.5cm x 96.5cm = 23.05" x 38.02"

John William Waterhouse: The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot 1894

Oil on canvas. Leeds City Art Gallery - Leeds, England

Actual Size (W x H): 86cm x 142cm = 33.88" x 55.95"

John William Waterhouse: Echo and Narcissus 1903

Oil on canvas. Walker Art Gallery - Liverpool, England

Actual Size (W x H): 189cm x 109cm = 74.47" x 42.95"

In Greek mythology, the unhappy nymph Echo was condemned to repeat the last words spoken to her. She fell in love with the beautiful youth Narcissus. He rejected her and was punished by falling in love with his own reflection. He was trapped by the sight of his own beauty and died. Yellow narcissus flowers grew where he died and Waterhouse has included these in the painting.

John William Waterhouse: A Tale from the Decameron 1916

Oil on canvas. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Wirral, England

Actual Size (W x H): 159cm x 102cm = 62.65" x 40.19"

The Unwelcome Companion: A Street Scene in Cairo 1873

Oil on canvas. Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museums - Burnley, England. Actual Size (W x H): 49.5cm x 59cm = 19.50" x 23.25"

John William Waterhouse: Ariadne 1898

Oil on canvas. Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Actual Size (W x H): 151cm x 91cm = 59.49" x 35.85"

Waterhouse on Amazon Plexo

Waterhouse (Chaucer Library of Art)
Waterhouse (Chaucer Library of Art)

John William Waterhouse is among the most popular Victorian artists and many of his paintings, such as The Lady of Shallot, Hylas and the Nymphs and Ophelia, have become icons of femininity recognized the world over. With their compelling composition, glowing color and Impressionist-inflected technique, these paintings are admired for their beauty, yet at the same time they have the power to transport the viewer into a romantic world of myth and legend. Waterhouse s depictions of female beauty reflect his age s complex and ambivalent attitudes towards women, in which Victorian ideals of sentiment and duty commingled with less noble undercurrents of erotic desire and misogyny. Aubrey Noakes sets out to discover the forgotten artist behind so much good work familiar to most of us now, chiefly in reproductions and in visits to provincial galleries, and he succeeds in this provocative and lively study.


John William Waterhouse: Study for The Lady Clare 1900

John William Waterhouse made wonderful scetches (drawings) of the characters he depicted in his later paintings. Some of these are masterpieces of Art in their own right.

Red chalk. Private Collection

Waterhouse: Beauty YouTube video - video made by wrc87

Please leave behind a friendly blurb, thanks

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    • writercb1 profile image

      writercb1 3 years ago from United States

      I really like the lists of galleries you have where people can view Waterhouse work. I am a great fan of his. On my Hub about Waterhouse, I failed to share as many outgoing links as you did that would lead people to see even more of his work. So, thank you. Please check out my Hub!

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      Can't recall having heard of this one before but his paintings are really gorgeous. You have featured him well and the pictures of his work are great as well. Are they yours? Well done.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Never heard of this artist before, but really enjoy his work now, thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great emotion in these paintings, enjoyed my visit this morning ... *blessed*

    • profile image

      dicrox 6 years ago

      Hi beautiful paintings!

    • gregoryolney lm profile image

      gregoryolney lm 6 years ago

      Nice lens - makes a change to see something other than the trite nonsense that makes up 95% of lenses !

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Waterhouse is amazing! Blessed by a SquidAngel on the Back to School Bus Trip.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beautiful. Inspiring. I had grown up with a few of these images everpresent. Lady of Shallot and Circe. Just love them.

    • confetta lm profile image

      Confetta Ras 9 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens! I love the images you selected.

      Waterhouse is a favorite of mine ; )

      Thank you for this.


    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      Really fantastic lens, so impressed. Waterhouse is one of my favorite painter always. Thank you for your passion! I make jewelry in the line of his painting taste( I believe...). Please have a look, if you are interested in...