If anyone visits johnwilliamwaterhouse.com then you may have already read this. Otherwise, as I’m so busy right now, I just though I’d post here what I posted on the afore mentioned site in response to a question raised about why Waterhouse painted what he did. So, I did my best to answer, all the while thinking that his inspirations have become pretty much mine as well. I can only hope to do a fraction of what Waterhouse did, but if I do even that, I’ll be quite content.
Here’s the post:
“Waterhouse was born in Rome and spent, I think, the first 5 years of his life there.This was obviously and influence on him particularly in his earlier works where many of his paintings were set within Roman settings, St Eulalia being an obvious example. If I remember correctly as well, it was from Rome that he developed a love for mythology which was to be a part of his work for the rest of his life, Ovid and Homer being particular sources of information. Another influence on his work, I expect, must have been the death of two of his siblings as well as his mother. Death was often prevalent in Nino’s work as with The Lady of Shalott, Ophelia and Hylas and the Nymphs and those three examples also show, for me, Waterhouse’s greatest trait and that is his eye for, and desire to paint, beauty. I also think the Romantic ideals of the Pre-Raphaelites was a big influence.
As a direct answer to your question “why John Williams Waterhouse was inspired to paint what he did”, I could only guess that it was simply a strong desire to express beauty, be it feminine beauty or beauty in nature – usually a mixture of both – within a mythological or Romantic narrative.”
I’m currently doing a Waterhouse ‘book’ as the subject of my latest project in college for which I’ve written some verses to go alongside some of his paintings. God knows how it’ll turn out as I’ve only got about 2 weeks to get everything done!
Until next time,