John William Waterhouse was born on April 6, 1849 in Rome. He was an important English painter who became known for his mythological motifs with female figures in the Pre-Raphaelite style.
His parents were painters and art accompanied Waterhouse from childhood. The family, of English descent, returned to London from Italy in 1850. They then lived in South Kensington, near the Victoria and Albert Museum. Waterhouse spent much time in these museums, where he also did many sketches. The young Waterhouse often helped his father with his studio and developed his artistic talent.
In 1870, the painter was admitted to the Royal Academy in London. He began his studies with sculpture, but switched to painting in 1874. His early work was shaped by academic realism and classical themes. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederick Leighton were also significant influences: bright colors, beautiful women, and stories filled with love, betrayal, and tragedy. Waterhouse was inspired by tragic images of women, powerful femmes fatales and mythological themes. He painted Ophelia, a character in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, The Lady of Shalott, the main character in Tennyson's poem, Circe Envious, Cleopatra, The Beautiful Lady without Mercy, and various versions of Lamia several times.
In 1874, Waterhouse presented his first painting "The Sleep and Death of his Half-Brother" at the Royal Academy. From then on, his works were exhibited there every year until his death. The work "After the Ball," exhibited in 1876, won first place. From then on, the English artist's paintings became bigger and bigger.
From the mid-1880s onward, Waterhouse collaborated with the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery and exhibited in major cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester. In the 1870s and 80s, the artist made several trips to Europe, where he gained much inspiration and his popularity continued to grow.
In 1883, the artist married Esther Kenworthy, who also had artistic talent and provided great support for his career. In 1885 Waterhouse was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy and in 1895 he became a full member. He actually wanted to submit "A Marmaid" as his graduation thesis at the Royal Academy, but he did not finish it in time and in 1888 he submitted "Ophelia". He is said to have been inspired by the paintings of John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
In 1901, Waterhouse moved to St. John's Wood, where he also taught at the art school. There, Waterhouse also joined the St. John's Wood Arts Club, a social organization to which Alma-Tadema and George Clausen belonged.
During the last ten years of his life, Waterhouse became ill and suffered from a general feeling of weakness, but this did not prevent him from painting. He painted a series of mythological paintings telling the legend of Persephone, Isolde, Miranda and Tristan. One of his last paintings was "The Enchanted Garden", which remained unfinished on the easel. The artist died of cancer on February 10, 1917.