John William Waterhouse 1849-1917 Born in: Rome (Lazio, Italy) Died in: St John’s Wood (London, Greater London, England) Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896 Oil on canvas, 98 x 163 cm, Manchester City Art Galleries ___
Hylas and the Nymphs originates from Greek myth. As the legend goes King Hylas was on an expedition when he decided to go ashore to get some water. When he reached into a spring to retrieve it he was carried off by water nymphs, never to be seen again. (encyclopedia.org) Waterhouse portrays King Hylas surrounded by seven nymphs. Enraptured with their beauty he is unaware of the fate about to befall him. This painting has a similar theme to La Belle Dam Sans Mercie. Both paintings depict the Femme Fatale, a common theme in Victorian literature and paintings, where the beauty of a woman causes a man to be off his guard, leading ultimately to his death. Beauty and the sense of immediate danger in both these pieces have grabbed viewers for the last century. Many of Waterhouse’s most famous images share the same tie of impending doom. Images including The Lady of Shallot, La Belle Dam Sans Mercie, Ophelia, Mariamne Leaving the Judgment Seat of Herod, Saint Cecilia and Hylas and the Nymphs. “Often in Waterhouse we see a bitter-sweet tension between earthly beauty and impending doom.” – Kara Ross
John William Waterhouse 1849-1917 Born in: Rome (Lazio, Italy) Died in: St John’s Wood (London, Greater London, England) Saint Cecilia, 1895 Oil on canvas, Private collection ___
One of Waterhouse’s greatest master pieces is Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music, lying asleep in a chair. Two angels kneel by her side, both playing stringed instruments. The angels as well as Cecelia herself share a look of gentle innocence and vulnerability (which Peter Trippi compares to the Nymphs in much King Hylas and the Water Nymph). The angels look at Cecelia admiringly for her strong faith and lasting virginity. The book in her hand is most likely the holy gospel which the actual saint always carried concealed from her non-Christian family. Saint Cecilia is considered to be one of the Catholic Church’s greatest martyrs. She converted many to Christianity which eventually cost her her life. She was ordered to be suffocated by steam, but survived and was found smiling inside the chamber. She was then ordered to be beheaded, but the executioner could not sever her head with the three blows allowed. She supposedly survived for three days, throughout which she was said to be fully coherent and joyful. She finally died after being blessed by the holy Pontiff Urban. (Catholic Encyclopedia) (Magnificat) Saint Cecelia currently holds the world record for a 19th century Victorian or non-Impressionist work, sold at auction, selling in the summer of 2001 for 6.6 million pounds, or roughly 10,000,000 American dollars. – Kara Ross
Waterhouse was an English painter known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite
style, as well as being one of the last exponents of this aesthetic.
His artworks are known for their depictions of women from both ancient
Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.