John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) is among the most popular Victorian artists, and many of his paintings have become icons of femininity recognized the world over. With their glowing colour, compelling composition and Impressionist-inflected technique, these paintings are admired for their beauty, yet at the same time have the power to transport viewers into a romantic world of myth and legend.
Waterhouse’s art reflects not only his distinctive ideal of female beauty, but also a lifelong fascination with the Romantic and Symbolist themes of passion, magic and transformation – spiritual, erotic and physical. These themes also reflect the complex and ambivalent attitudes of his age. Peter Trippi presents a new analysis of Waterhouse’s enchantresses, martyrs and nymphs, at the same time presenting a fresh and thoroughly researched review of this surprisingly enigmatic artist’s life and the circumstances in which he painted.
Like other Victorian artists, Waterhouse was neglected through much of the twentieth century, but today he is acknowledged as a crucial inheritor of the Pre-Raphaelite legacy. Peter Trippi’s monograph provides a timely re-evaluation that combines a close reading of Waterhouse’s imagery with a new appraisal of his unique and enduring qualities.