Artist profile: John William Waterhouse – 1880s

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.


I’ve selected a few paintings that Waterhouse made in the 1880s. One thing you’ll notice this month is that he liked to paint Ophelia and the Lady of Shalott a bunch.

I’m sure you’ll recognize the last two paintings.
A Greek Play (1880)
This painting is like a sepia photograph – it was painted with just brown and white. Its present location is unknown.
Esther Kenworthy Waterhouse, wife of the artist (c. 1885)
Esther’s father was an art teacher, and she had at least one exhibit of her paintings (of flowers) in England. The background here is very Impressionistic.
Ophelia (1889)
Waterhouse also painted Ophelia in 1894 and 1910, which you’ll see later this month.

The Lady of Shalott (1888)
This is probably the most famous image associated with the Lady of Shalott; the scene is based on the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. I love the tapestry she’s put in her boat. He painted her again in 1894 and 1916.
The Magic Circle (1886)
This image is pretty neat. The woman’s clothes are slightly Egyptian-looking. The study for this painting, below, shows the colors better, as well as the glowing circle on the ground, which I’d never noticed before. You can also pick out a toad in the bottom right corner.

Other parts in the John William Waterhouse artist profile series



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