Articles about J.W. Waterhouse


Selections from the 1910s


The International Studio, March 1913

There is a brief mention of Waterhouse's involvement with the St. John's Wood Art Schools in the "Art School Notes" section. From 1900, Waterhouse had been living at 10, Hall Road, St. John's Wood.

The winter exhibition of students' work at the St. John's Wood Art Schools showed that the high standard of previous years was fully maintained and in some respects surpassed.... The judges in the figure competition were Mr. J. W. Waterhouse, R.A., Mr. S. J. Solomon, R.A., and Mr. William Hatherell, A.R.A.


The International Studio, July 1913

Waterhouse achieves high praise for the three paintings he had submitted to the 1913 Royal Academy Exhibition ('A Song of Springtime', 'Narcissus' and 'Mrs. Philip Henderson').

Mr. Waterhouse, another painter who never fails to charm by the daintiness of his imagination and the delicacy of his sentiment, is well represented by two small compositions, A Song of Springtime, and Narcissus, both admirable in their subtlety of draughtsmanship and freshness of colour, and by a portrait of Mrs. Philip Henderson, which is one of the most satisfying excursions he has ever made into this branch of pictorial practice. He is seen, indeed, quite at his best this year, and with this trio of pictures more than maintains the high reputation he has earned.


The Christian Science Monitor, March 23, 1917

A month after Waterhouse's death, the special arts correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, writes an article entitled No Waterhouse Vogue Now; Art of the Moderns in which he presents Waterhouse's art as being old-fashioned, (This kind of art has had its day. So much that is new and vital has sprung up that Waterhouse's eclectic pictures have become tiresome.) and compares it disfavourably with a young and upcoming artist:

Twenty years ago the bright, decorative pictures of J.W. Waterhouse, R.A., dealing cheerfully with myths and legends (papa's classical dictionary was much thumbed) were treated with vast respect by the critics; 10 years ago a paragraph took the place of half a column; at the last Royal Academy exhibition few critics took the trouble even to notice a Waterhouse. This kind of art has had its day. So much that is new and vital has sprung up that Waterhouse's eclectic pictures have become tiresome. He never really found himself. His art hovered between the pre-Raphaelites and Burne-Jones, and his pictures were popular because they were bright in color and decorative, and because they told a story. His "Lady of Shalott" was the picture of the year in 1888, and, of course, a quotation from Tennyson was appended to the catalogue:

          "And down the river's dim expanse,
            Like some bold seer in a trance,
            Seeing all his own mischance—
            With a glassy countenance,
            Did she look to Camelot.
            And at the closing of the day
            She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
            The broad stream bore her far away,
            -- The Lady of Shalott."

The picture was fresh and green: you saw the lady, a charming St. John's Wood model, loosening the chain of the boat, which begins to glide from under the willows down the stream.

The picture was bought by Mr. Tate, the sugar broker, who always bought the picture of the year, and "The Lady of Shalott" now hangs with three other Waterhouses at the Tate Gallery. Few read Tennyson's poem now, and few look at Waterhouse's "Lady of Shalott." The taste in art has changed, that is, taste has veered to art from mere picture-making, however accomplished and pretty and taking. Waterhouse had a very successful career. It would be impossible today. He was a scholarly, thoughtful man who shrank from self-advertisement so strongly that his biography in "Who's Who" amounts only to three lines. He may be likened to a typical Oxford don who knows so much that originality has been stamped out, and everything he writes is colored by the opinions of intellects that he esteems.

All Waterhouse's paintings are colored by his admiration for the pre-Raphaelites and Burne-Jones. They are charming and scholarly, but not one of his numerous eight-footers gives the tingle and uplift of two small pictures in the Hugh Lane collection—the draftsmanship in "La Plage," by Degas, and the color values in "Sunshine and Snow," by Monet.

To turn from the work of Waterhouse to the work of Alvero Guevara is to pass from winter to spring. The winter may have been pleasant, but the recurring novelty of spring is delightful. Alvaro Guevara is a Spaniard who was born in Chile; but as he lives in London and was trained at the Slade School he is fast becoming an Englishman. In his twenty-sixth year he is holding at the Chenil Gallery his second exhibition. Not for him legend or myth: not for him primitivism, mediaevalism, pre-Raphaelitism, or Waterhouse eclecticism. He is of the moment: he paints the moment. Guevara happens to be a great swimmer, a champion swimmer, a gold medalist, and being a wise young artist (les jeunes are wise and intellectual) he paints what he loves—swimming. So we have at the Chenil Gallery a series of nearly 40 water frolics, each a study of swimming or diving in a swimming bath, each containing half a dozen figures either in, or entering or just emerging from the water. These studies are as buoyant as water, and the color can only be described by the word lovely. The paintings are in two dimensions, without chiaroscuro or shadows, treated flatly like a Japanese print. As decorations for a morning or billiard room nothing could be more attractive than such a pair as "Swimmers" and "The Water Chute".

It is impossible to forecast what Alvaro Guevara would make of a large, labored picture. Perhaps he will never attempt it: perhaps the day of the large labored picture is over. The British are a practical nation, and if they have learnt to derive more pleasure from Guevara's "Water Chute" than from Waterhouse's "Lady of Shalott," why should they pay 600 guineas for the Waterhouse, when they can buy the Guevara for 20 guineas?

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