John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse
Born Apr. 6, 1849
Rome, Papal States
Died Feb. 10, 1917 (at age 67)
London, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education Royal Academy
Movement Pre-Raphaelite
Field Painting
Works View Complete Works

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) was an English painter and draftsman, known for his work in Pre-Raphaelite style. He was born in Italy in 1849 to a family of painters. He had a passion for natural settings, and was inspired by strong, stunning female figures. This made his work extremely popular among his patrons.


John William Waterhouse led a simple, quiet social life without any evidence of major drama. Waterhouse was brought up in a very artistic household. He was known by his friends and family as Nino.

In 1850, his family moved back to England and lived in Kensington. Apart from helping his father in his studio, Waterhouse developed his own unique skills as an artist. In 1870, he joined the Royal Academy Schools to study sculpture and painting. He was an active member of Royal Academy.

He married Esther Kenworthy, the daughter of an Arts Schools master from Ealing. During his last few years, his life was overshadowed by a grave illness. In 1915, Waterhouse died because of cancer and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

Art Career

Waterhouse-sleep_and_his_half-brother_death-1874Waterhouse created more than 200 paintings during his lifetime, but he gained fame and recognition when his painting Consulting the Oracle was bought by Sir Henry Tate in 1886. During the 1870s and 1880s, he made several trips to Italy and other parts of Europe, where he drew inspiration for his paintings. Most of his early works were inspired by classical themes, and were exhibited at the Dudley Gallery and the Society of British Artists. His painting, Sleep and his Half Brother Death, gained much applaud at the Royal Academy summer exhibition. And from then onwards, Waterhouse started showing his paintings at an annual exhibition. In his later career, Waterhouse began to produce large watercolors using Pre-Raphaelite concepts of beautiful, tragic and powerful women.

Art Style

Miranda_-_John_William_WaterhouseJohn Waterhouse was inspired by two major artists of that century- Frederic Lord Leighton and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

John William Waterhouse had a unique style of painting with which portrayed classical and mythical scenes. He was a romantic and passionate artist in the truest sense. He had passion for natural beauty and strong, beautiful female figures. He painted excellent portraits of some of the famous women of that era.

Most of his paintings were in oil. He used vivid color schemes, natural settings and beautiful light in his paintings. His work illustrated the tales of love and tragedy depicted by female muses.

Famous Works

JW-Waterhouse_The-Lady-Of-Shallot_1888John William Waterhouse created several high quality paintings during his life time. Some of his famous works include A Naiad, Consulting the Oracle, Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, the Lady of Shallot, Ophelia, the Enchanted Garden, and many more. The Lady of Shalott was his most famous painting, where he painted three different versions of the main character, Elaine. The series of Ophelia paintings were not completed since Waterhouse suffered from cancer during that time. Some of the paintings from Ophelia series are displayed in Lord Lyold Webber’s collection.