John William Waterhouse was born in Rome, and was always known by his family, and personal friends as Nino, the diminutive of the Italian Giovanino. Both his parents were artists. Today Waterhouse is possibly the most popular of all the artists on this web site. It is interesting to note, however, that little is known about his personal life today, considering he died in 1917, and was an active RA. What is known indicates he was a retiring, shy man, he left no diaries or journals, and, I suspect, quite deliberately covered his tracks. His friend, William Logsdail [1859-1944] wrote his memoirs, but I have not been able to locate a copy of them. I set out below such information I as I have about Waterhouse.
Waterhouse became ARA in 1885, and a full RA in 1895. In 1883 he married Esther Kenworthy at the parish church in Ealing in West London. There were no children. The newly married couple lived in a purpose built artistic colony in Primrose Hill, fellow residents, and close friends were Logsdail, and Maurice Greiffenhagen and his wife. The houses had studios. Around 1900 Waterhouse and his wife moved to St John's Wood, evidence of both increasing prosperity, and the need to be part of the artistic community. He was I think one of the most accomplished British painters of the second half of the 19th century. He shared with many of them a fascination with events from antiquity and legend.
Early in his career Waterhouse established his style. It changed little, but he continually refined it, and his beautiful ladies were recognisable flesh and blood, with superb skin tones. He also painted a few excellent portraits of women, some of them being of the members of the Henderson family of Lord Faringdon, of Buscot Park fame. A lot of the pictures spent many years on the walls of prosperous Home Counties families, but the problems of Lloyds of London have, in many cases, forced their sale, just as their real value, and the artistic worth of Waterhouse's achievement has come to be realised. He continued to do the same thing throughout his career, but he did it so well, who are we to complain?
In 1917 he died of cancer, but he had carried on working virtually to the end of his life, as evidenced by the two very late pictures bought by Lord Leverhume, still on show at the Lady Lever Gallery to this day.
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