I wasn’t going to, but I’ve decided to write something about the John Waterhouse exhibition I went to recently after all. It would take me an age to write it all (which put me off attempting it) so I’ve decided to write just some of the things that stick out most in my mind now that 2 months have passed since I went along. I’ll do a different post about different things rather than do it all in one go.

Here is the Groninger Museum (the tall building) with the restaurant to the right. Any eagle-eyed observer spot ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May‘?

First up, and this is a bit of an odd thing to write about but it rather amused me at the time, was to do with St. Cecilia. Waterhouse, as you may have guessed, is my favourite artist and I like to have a stab at painting myself so, while around the exhibition I tended to pay more than usual attention to his work, trying my damnedest to see what I could learn from his technique and style. Sometimes I would have my face as close as humanly possible to the canvas without possibly setting off some alarm or other. And so it was thus that I was inspecting St. Cecilia.

St. Cecilia

This is a really big painting (46 x 77 in) and the top of my head probably only came to about half-way up (and I am 6ft 1in myself though I’m not sure how far off the ground it was), so I had to peruse the lower part of the painting when I got the chance without getting in anybody’s way. It was on examining the lower-left corner near the angels feet that I saw a hair on the canvas. I gave it a blow to dislodge it but it didn’t move. I got a bit closer and blew again but it just trembled a little not wanting to go anywhere. Then I got as close as I dared with my nose about an inch away. The hair looked white and crinkled and immediately put me in mind of a dog hair (I’ve grown up around my fair share of dogs to know what a dog hair looks like). I blew again and realised then that the hair was actually stuck to the canvas by the oil paint itself! By this time I must have obliviously attracted the attention of one of the security people, because one had appeared out of the corner of my eye standing a few feet away from me against the wall. Becoming a bit self-conscious, I acted as nonchalantly as I could and sidled away to the next painting hoping I wasn’t going to be escorted from the exhibition. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Thinking about it afterwards, I recalled seeing an image of Waterhouse sitting with a dog (a corgi, I think) at his feet. Having looked on the net, I found the photo I was looking for:

I’m not sure what year this was taken but Waterhouse is working on the 1909 version of Lamia. St. Cecilia was completed in 1895, 14 years earlier so either this is the dog in question and is about 14 yrs old in this picture or the culprit was another dog that maybe Waterhouse had before the one in the photo above or maybe it’s not a dog hair at all and I’m barking up the wrong tree – if you’ll pardon the pun 😉

So, I was left with this little cartoon-like scenario of John William Waterhouse, the master artist, chasing his oil-spattered dog in circles around his canvas as he tried to complete a painting that would, in 2000, become the costliest Victorian painting ever at £6.6 million.

After I’ve been to the London exhibition, I’ll let you know if it’s still there 🙂

Until next time,