Articles about J.W. Waterhouse


Artists and Beauty: The Opinion of Eminent Painters


Illustrations from Photographs by Lafayette, Ltd, 179 New Bond Street, London W

"The beauty of women appeals to all men, but not to all men alike; and artists, particularly those who have devoted themselves to the limning of the human figure, are supposed to have strongly pronounced preferences of their own. With a view of putting these preferences to the test, we have submitted a selection of beautiful women of to-day to a number of representative figure painters. The result is indicated in the following pages.

One of these photographs, which we have numbered “3”, is awarded the palm by no fewer than five artists, these being Sir Luke Files, R.A., Mr. J.W. Waterhouse, R.A., Mr. Arthur Hacker, A.R.A, the Hon John Colllier, and Mr. Byam Shaw. The one point on which all these authorities agreed was the beauty of the lady's eyes.


Waterhouse Model
Photo #3, favoured by John William Waterhouse



“If I had to select one of these ladies,” said Mr. Waterhouse, “as a model for painting, I should have no hesitation about my choice. The lady of my preference, indeed, reminds me very much of one of my models. After she had been sitting to me for some time she went on the stage, and succeeding in obtaining fairly important parts, she naturally did not care to resume her former profession, and for some time I have lost sight of her. She sat only for the face. The face, as in this photograph, is so singularly beautiful that I was very sorry to lose the opportunity of painting it, and I have written once or twice lately to the lady's old address but without obtaining a reply.”

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An earlier reference to Waterhouse and his models can be found  in the September 1904 edition of Strand Magazine. In a fascinating article about artists's models, "Models for Famous Pictures" by Ronald Graham, Mr. Graham writes:

".... But, as we have already shown, Millais was fond of the fancy or subject-portrait, which, in his later years, at least, became very little idealized, differing in this respect from many of his fellow-painters, such as Rossetti and Burne-Jones. It is well-known that Holman Hunt painted "The Light of the World" from his own features and person in the looking-glass, but he succeeded in idealizing it out of all recognition. The author of "The Golden Stairs", and such painters as Mr JW Waterhouse, R.A. also keep true to their own type of manhood and womanhood however much they may be influenced by the model of the moment."

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- the term "stage" encompasses musical comedy (i.e. Gilbert & Sullivan) / variety shows (music hall) / dramatic acting (e.g. Ellen Terry / Sarah Bernhardt).

- it is not known to whom Waterhouse was referring when he wrote of a favourite model who had achieved success upon the stage. See Cathy Baker's and StB's articles in this section for more details about Waterhouse models.

One contender could be the actress Lilian Braithwaite - she was a noted beauty and actress of her day - and her rise to fame started in the early 1900s:
Lilian Braithwaite by Harold Speed
'Lilian Braithwaite', from a drawing by Harold Speed, c. 1916

Waterhouse's Destiny
'Destiny', John William Waterhouse, 1900  


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