Waterhouse at the Tate and RA

Posted by on Nov 23, 2008 in Jimbob's Eclectic Mix | 0 comments

After my visit to Kensal Green Cemetery, me and my brother went off to the center of London. I basically dragged Peter with me ‘cos I wasn’t going to London and not going to see Waterhouse’s work (Pete would have gone to the pub for the day if he’d had his way). So first off, I went looking for The Mermaid in the Royal Academy at Burlington House. I’ve always had a soft spot for this picture because it was one of the first I’d seen of Waterhouse’s and I think it was one of the first I’d had a go at drawing. Although I could do better nowadays, I was pleased with it at the time (I think I was 20). I put it up in an exhibition that the hospital I worked for had organized to show some of the talent that workers had for art. I put it up with another picture I did of Ellen Terry (Choosing by George Frederic Watts). They both got stolen. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I suppose I was a little flattered as they were the only two taken. Anyway, to cut a short story even shorter, The Mermaid wasn’t there ‘cos it was taken down for the time being for some photo exhibition. Arrrggghhhh! Oh well, maybe next time. I’ve been to Tate Britain before and seen The Lady of Shalott and Saint Eulalia. I remember not having a great deal of time to look at them when I went last, so I made a point of only really looking at those two pictures (though I did look for Millais’s Ophelia which, unfortunately, had been taken down as well). My brother has little interest in art and sat bored after about 5 mins so, again I felt a bit pressed for time. Saint Eulalia First off, you come to Saint Eulalia, painted in 1885. Here’s the story behind the painting from the Tate’s own website: St Eulalia was martyred in the fourth century, aged twelve, for refusing to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. Two executioners tore her body with iron hooks, and held flames to her breasts and sides until she was suffocated by the smoke. According to the account given by the Spanish poet Prudentius, which Waterhouse quoted in the exhibition catalogue, a white dove emerged from Eulalia‚Äôs mouth at the moment of her death and a miraculous fall of snow descended. It’s a beautifully painted picture and I think, for me, one of what I call his ‘transition’ paintings. His main body of previous work was classically oriented, whereas his later work (maybe even beginning the following year with The Magic Circle) definitely was influenced by impressionism. Saint Eulalia I think, mixes the two. Also from that point on women, often like Saint Eulalia in tragic or forlorn circumstances, became the focal point of his work. As with Hylas and the Nymphs when I visited that a few months ago, I was struck by something that you simply don’t see in images reproduced in books: this time it was the amount of cracks in the paintwork. I know Waterhouse is known for this ‘craquelure’ effect on his paintings, caused by not allowing the paint to dry properly before adding another layer. The Lady of Shalott Pushed for time, I didn’t spend as long as I would have liked with Saint Eulalia; I wanted to spend more time with The Lady of Shalott, about five paintings away. First off, I’ll start by saying that this painting seemed by far the most popular there, certainly...

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