Waterhouse was born in Rome in 1849, where his parents, both of whom were
painters, had lived for years. His classical learning contributed to his
later talents as a painter. When the family returned to England,
Waterhouse studied first at his father's studio, then at the Royal Academy
Schools from 1870. His early paintings were in the classical style
featuring scenes from every day life and later poetical subjects from
Tennyson and Homer. Waterhouse became ARA in 1885.
During this period, it is believed that Waterhouse used
friends and family members as models. It is believed that Waterhouse's
step-sister Mary Waterhouse Somerville was the model for The Lady of
Sometime around 1891, Waterhouse's painting took on a more pre-Raphaelite
model with the depiction of the femme fatale in numerous settings. Some
claim that he discovered a beautiful
model who is featured in most of his important pictures after that date.
Her name is not known with any surety and there is much speculation as to
her identity, but he may have identified her himself in an inscription as
Muriel Foster. His reputation increased and he became RA in 1895.
Waterhouse's most productive years were spent at his Primrose Hill Studios
Another "mysterious" potential model unknown until
recently has been tentatively identified as Beatrice Flaxman. The dark
red-headed model may have begun sitting for Waterhouse in the early 1900's
and more likely by 1906. It is believed that she was Waterhouse's model
for many paintings including 'I
am Half-Sick of Shadows', said The Lady of Shalott (1915) provided
There continues to be some dispute concerning the models for
his works, some writers claiming a single model (Muriel Foster?) while
other claim that a Waterhouse preference for red-haired models has led to
most of the confusion Waterhouse students into believing Foster was
Waterhouse's only model after the turn of the century.
His somewhat neglected grave can be found at Kensal Green
Cemetery in London.
A portrait of Waterhouse by Alma Tadema is in the National
Portrait Gallery. The photo of him above is from 1909.
am Half Sick of the Shadows" said the Lady of Shalott
la Belle Dame sans Merci
The Lady of Shalott, 1888
The Lady of Shalott, 1894
The Lady of Shalott, 1894 Study
The Magic Circle
Tristram and Isolde