The Groninger Museum
presents the largest-ever retrospective of works by the world-famous British artist John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). Many splendid paintings and drawings have been borrowed from locations as far afield as Australia, England, Ireland, Taiwan and Canada. The exhibition has been organized in conjunction with the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada.
The artist was born in Rome to British parents, but the family returned to London five years later. Even at a very young age, Waterhouse assisted in the studio of his father, where he developed his interest in painting, sculpture and Classical Antiquity. He was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1870, and gradually began to make a name for himself with strikingly original and often melancholy pictures inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.
His richly coloured, emotionally charged images of beautiful women brought him renown throughout the British Empire and at the World Expositions of the 1890s and 1900s. His themes, which he took largely from such authors as Ovid, Keats, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Shelley and Dante, reflect his ardent passion for women, water, nature, love and death, frequently with sinister undertones that hint at his fascination with the underworld. His captivating scenes include depictions of Circe, Miranda, The Lady of Shalott, Cleopatra, Lamia, Mariamne, Hylas and the Nymphs, and The Magic Circle.
Nowadays Waterhouse is often referred to as a Pre-Raphaelite, but he was also a representative of the new age, fully aware of the modern artistic innovations occurring in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century. He felt at home in the dream-like world of myths and sagas, but was also inspired by poetry and music, and by the looser brushwork of French Impressionism.
Waterhouses passion for beauty lives on unmistakably in the marvellous paintings and drawings that he left behind, many of which will be on display in the Groninger Museum.