The Artist’s Soul

‘See me, and know me as I am.’   At the age of twenty-one, Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote the short story Hand and Soul, which was published in The Germ, a short-lived magazine created by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Not only does the story offer a glimpse into the young Rossetti’s beliefs and aspirations, it seems to … Read more

Finding Fireflies Amidst the Fireworks

When Waterhouse’s exquisite Hylas and the Nymphs was controversially removed from exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery recently, I wrote that it would be far more beneficial to promote images that empower women instead of removing a masterpiece to provoke a reaction. The painting has since been returned to display at the Gallery, and it was … Read more

Bothered by Art Censorship? #MeToo

The Manchester Art Gallery announced this week that it has removed from exhibition the painting Hylas and the Nymphs by J.W. Waterhouse, and also the post cards of it in its gift shop. The gallery’s stated goal is to “challenge this Victorian fantasy” of “the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme … Read more

Circe the Enchantress

The works of John William Waterhouse often blend feminine beauty and mystery.  Above is Circe Invidiosa, his depiction of the goddess Circe. With a sumptuous  blend of greens and blues, he created a world that draws us in and mesmerizes. It’s as if you can feel yourself transported into Circe’s world. You can hear the water … Read more

Menacing Beauty

“There’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck.” – Radiohead, “There, There” Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse depicts a scene from Jason and the Argonauts.  Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas, who was killed in battle by Herakles.  Herakles then raised Hylas as his own. Known for both his striking beauty and his … Read more

The Witch’s Heart

This morning I shared on the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Facebook page  Edward Poynter’s portrait of Georgiana Burne-Jones, wife of Sir Edward Burne-Jones who was an important figure in the second wave of Pre-Raphaelitism.   In ‘The Last Pre-Raphaelite’ biographer Fiona MacCarthy describes the watch Georgie’s wearing on a chain as a “ball-shaped gold watch studded with chrysolites … Read more

Lamia, seductive and monstrous

Seen above is Lamia, the Serpent Woman by Anna Lea Merritt. Be wary of her beauty, for she means to consume you. In mythology, Lamia is a mistress of Zeus and her affair with him angered Hera so much that she transformed Lamia’s children into monstrous beings. Grief-stricken, Lamia devours any child she finds, thus … Read more

Lyres of Waterhouse

In 1900 John William Waterhouse painted Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus, which shows the discovery of Orpheus’ decapitated head floating next to his lyre. Orpheus was given the lyre by the god Apollo and it was the Muses that taught him how to play.  His gift for music enchanted all living things: wild beasts, trees … Read more

Images of the Annunciation

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portrayal of the Annunciation is a continuation of the theme begun in his painting The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. The moment that Mary learns she is to give birth to the Christ child has been depicted in art frequently since the Middle Ages. Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini is shockingly intimate in comparison. We see … Read more

Oracles and Sibyls

sib·yl:nouna woman in ancient times supposed to utter the oracles and prophecies of a god.literarya woman able to foretell the future. Sibyls appear often in art and fiction and I find them indicative of female power and mystery. They represent arcane knowledge of the future, usually sought by someone on an important life journey. Even … Read more

Lady of Shalott: The Imprisoned Artist

The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse

After posting about Evelyn De Morgan’s painting The Gilded Cage, I began to think about other paintings that depict women who are trapped and imprisoned in some way, paintings that prompt me to ponder limitations and boundaries. The Lady of Shalott is perhaps the most obvious example that comes to mind. Based upon the poem … Read more

The Unrequited Love of Dante and Beatrice

Dante Alighieri first saw and fell in love with Beatrice Portinari when he was nine years old. He would later write about his instant love for her in Vita Nuova, saying “Behold, a deity stronger than I; who coming, shall rule over me.” He loved her from afar for the rest of her life. She would die … Read more

The Unrequited Love of Mariana

Above is Sir John Everett Millais’ painting Mariana, which I’ve blogged about before in this post. Her dress is bluer than blue, the stained glass is exquisite, but let us have a moment of silence for the little mouse who died for Millais to include him in the work. “But where was the mouse to … Read more

Waterhouse Signatures

Above is a version of John William Waterhouse’s The Flower Picker.   In J.W. Waterhouse (2002, Phaidon Press), author Peter Trippi tells us that Waterhouse painted at least four versions of this work. “Waterhouse employed looser handling to make at least four depictions of a girl leaning over a fence to pick flowers.  There is no evidence … Read more

Monstrous Women

I was browsing a bookstore and found an aisle offering boxed sets of movies packaged with the books they were based on. A little girl picked up Frankenstein and handed it to her mother, who rolled her eyes. “You don’t want that. That’s for boys.” I assume the mother had never heard of Mary Shelley. … Read more

Pyramus and Thisbe

The tale of Thisbe comes from book four of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In ancient Babylon, the families of Pyramus and Thisbe live in separate houses that share a roof. Over time, the two youths fall in love but are forbidden by their parents to see each other. Undaunted, the lovers use a crack in the wall … Read more

Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: The Tempest

In The Tempest, Shakespeare tells us the story of Prospero, duke of Milan.  Prospero was dethroned by his brother Antonio and abandoned at sea with his three year old daughter Miranda.  Eventually they landed on an enchanted island, where the sole inhabitant is the creature Caliban.  Prospero works his magic and places Caliban and all … Read more

The lure of water-women

In Rossetti’s 1853 drawing Boatmen and Siren, one of the boatmen is captivated by the siren, but is saved from certain death by his companion.  The accompanying inscription was written by Jacopo da Lentino, a Italian poet of the Rennaissance era whose work was translated by Rossetti in The Early Italian Poets: I am broken, … Read more

Waterhouse and Transformations

After my post about Clytie changing into the sunflower, I’ve been pondering transformations. Lamia is perhaps my favorite example of a dramatic transformation.  Based on the poem by John Keats, Waterhouse depicts Lamia after she has transformed from serpent to woman.  I adore the vivid imagery of Keats’ poem (She was a gordian shape of … Read more

Love, Death and Potted Plants

William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil is currently in the news with the recent announcement that the Delaware Art museum will be auctioning the painting tomorrow.  The work has been in their collection since 1947 and it is sad news indeed that the Delaware has to sell it and three other works … Read more

‘Astrologia’ and other examples of crystal balls

According to Georgiana Burne-Jones’ memorials of her husband, the model for Astrologia was Miss Augusta Jones.  I love the reflection seen on the crystal ball; if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that mirrored images are favorite details of mine. (Seeking out mirrors, Viola, Circe, The Impossible Mirror of Lady Lilith, … Read more