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London Times Obituary

On 12th February 1917 the following obituary was placed in the London Times.

Mr. J. W. Waterhouse, R.A.

Mr. John William Waterhouse, R.A., died at his house in St. John's Wood on Saturday, after a long illness, in his 68th year.

The first of his paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy was "Sleep and his half-brother Death" in 1874, and since then there have been few Academies without one or two of his works. He was elected an Associate in 1885, the year of one of his best-known paintings, the "St. Eulalia". "The Magic Circle", painted in 1886, which was purchased for £650 for the Chantrey Bequest Collection, and "The Lady of Shalott", which was exhibited at the Academy in 1888, were others of his most popular works. He became an R.A. in 1895.

His painting, "Hylas and the Nymphs", shown at the Royal Academy in 1897, passed into the possession of the Corporation of Manchester, and by them was lent for exhibition in Glasgow in 1901 and at the Franco-British Exhibition seven years later. At other loan exhibitions in Whitechapel, Manchester, the City of London Guildhall, and at Earl's Court examples of his work have been on view from time to time. His wife several times exhibited paintings of floral subjects at the Royal Academy.

Mr. Waterhouse was an eclectic painter. He painted pre-Raphaelite pictures in a more modern manner. He was, in fact, a kind of academic Burne-Jones, like him in his types and his moods, but with less insistence on design and more on atmosphere. His art was always agreeable, for he had taste and learning as well as considerable accomplishments; he was one of those painters whose pictures always seemed to suggest that he must have done better in some other work. This means that he never quite "came off", that he raised expectations in his art which it did not completely satisfy; and a reason of this, no doubt, is to be found in his eclecticism. He never quite found himself or the method which would completely express him.

One feels that his figures are there to make a picture rather than that they are occupied with any business of their own. They do make it very skillfully and prettily, but neither they nor the pictures seem to be quite alive. He was at his best, perhaps, in the "Martyrdom of St. Eulalia", in the Tate Gallery, where he escapes more than usual from the Burne-Jones lethargy, which, though very natural and expressive in Burne-Jones himself, seems to be a mere artistic device in Waterhouse. But he was, at any rate, quite free from that theatricality which is the common vice of academic subject pictures. He painted always like a scholar and a gentleman, though not like a great artist.

Obituary Overview

John William Waterhouse died on 10th February 1917 and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in northwest London. Although by 1917 Waterhouse's work had fallen out of fashion, and the country was in the midst of the Great War, several newspapers covered his death and printed obituaries.

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