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John Waterhouse Artist Biography

John Waterhouse was a Pre-Raphaelite painter most famous for his paintings of female characters from mythology and literature. Some of his most distinctive paintings depicting romantic and poetic subjects include 'The Lady of Shallot' (1888) and 'St. Cecilia' (1895) for example. As well as these Pre-Raphaelite works, he also produced a number of large scale historical and biblical paintings. Waterhouse was born in 1849 to English parents in Rome, Italy, where his father worked as a painter. His family moved back to London in 1850 and lived in the Kensington area where John Waterhouse experienced an artistic childhood. He would often help his father in his studio. In 1970, as a young man he was accepted into the Royal Academy Schools.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was one of his earliest influences and he painted Greco Roman subjects along the lines of Edwin Long, a painter of portraits, historical and biblical genre. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a major inspiration on John Waterhouse and he adapted many of their classical and literary themes for his own compositions. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874 and went on to exhibit there many times throughout his career. John Waterhouse married Esther Kenworthy, the daughter of an Art School master, in 1883. The couple lived in number 3 Primrose Hill studios, a famous address which has since been the home of several other well-known artists, notably Arthur Rackham and Patrick Caulfield.

In 1901, John Waterhouse took up a prestigious teaching post at the famous St John's Wood School of Art, where young and upcoming "neo Pre-Raphaelites" such as Byam Shaw studied, as well as serving as an academic for the Royal Academy. John Waterhouse enjoyed considerable success with frequent exhibitions and support from many distinguished patrons. In 1884 Henry Tate, whose collection would go on to create the now renowned Tate galleries, bought "Consulting the Oracle". He went on to purchase "The Lady of Shallot" in 1888 and these works are still owned by the Tate galleries, drawing countless visitors.

The last ten years of John Waterhouse’s life were overshadowed by illness. However, he worked prodigiously right up until his death from cancer in 1917, leaving his final work 'The Enclosed Garden' unfinished and now in the collection of the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool.

Very little is known of John Waterhouse 's private life - only a few letters have survived and thus, for many years, the identity of his models has been a mystery. One letter that has survived indicates that Mary Lloyd, the model for Lord Leighton's masterpiece Flaming June, posed for Waterhouse. The well-known Italian male model, Angelo Colorossi, who sat for Leighton, Millais, Sargent, Watts, Burne-Jones and many other Victorian artists, also sat for Waterhouse.

More art prints from John Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott By John Waterhouse
A Mermaid By John Waterhouse
The Siren By John Waterhouse
Hylas And The Nymphs By John Waterhouse
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