Waterhouse, John William RA (1849-1917)

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John William Waterhouse is one of the most popular Victorian artists. He was born in Rome and brought up in Italy before coming to England on his mother's death in 1855. His father was a portrait and genre painter and Waterhouse developed his interest in painting by assisting in his father's studio.

He studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1870, initially as a Prohabitioner in sculpture. Six months later he was admitted as a student and his first painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1873. He continued to exhibit works there until his death in 1917 and also taught at Royal Academy Schools.

In his early career Waterhouse was influenced by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, painting and architecturally- accurate Roman and Greek subjects. He then developed a highly personal style in the late romantic Pre-Raphaelite manner. His first Pre-Raphaelite paintings were 'The Lady of Shalot' series.

In 1883 Waterhouse married the Ealing flower-painter Esther Kenworthy (1857-1944) an the couple rented rooms near 3 Primrose Hill Studios, London. In 1887 they moved to the larger 6 Primrose Hill Studios.

Waterhouse made many studies of female models in his sketchbooks and often changed their actual appearance in order to create his own idealised version of female beauty. One particular model features in over sixty of is paintings between 1889 and 1917. Despite much research scholars have so far been unable to reveal her identity conclusively.