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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Wonder that is Waterhouse...

Due to book-illustration-deadline-craziness, I know I haven't really given a report on the incredible Waterhouse show I saw in Montreal -

- but the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a terrific website covering many aspects of it here (the only downside, is that it only covers a smattering of the actual art included in the show).


(and you really should listen to Loreena McKennitt sing "The Lady of Shalott" to you as you look. This is an abbreviated, live version. You can also hear the full poem sung here. This show marks the first time all of Waterhouse's 'Lady of Shalott' paintings have been together in one place.)

It was amazing seeing so many of his paintings (and studies and sketches) in person. I was surprised at how much the finished sizes varied. From the ginormous Mariamne to the surprisingly small 'mermaid' paintings, and the teensy Miranda (which is nearly identical to it's larger version painted the same year: Miranda - the Tempest). It was also very interesting to see the progression and changes in his style and subject matter throughout his career.

The painting I enjoyed most in person was Circe Invidiosa - which I've yet to see any reproduction do justice to. The color and detail in this deceptively simple composition and limited-palette piece were just breath-taking. The green stream of poison was nearly iridescent in its vividness. (And I'd never really picked up that she was standing on a fish before.) The choices of which items were finished sharply with detail and which were left much more impressionistically were perfect. The warm and cool choices were perfectly balanced - nearly forming a yin/yang symbol. I am stumped for a better descriptor of this painting than all around *perfect* (not a reaction I had previously had to seeing small reproductions of this piece).

I checked out the accompanying exhibit catalog/book - but it was $60. And in French. So, if you want to read more comprehensively about the life and work of JW Waterhouse, might I suggest this very good offering from Phaidon (details here)?

Life is better with more Waterhouse in it.

(The show is up in Montreal through February 7th. Worth the pilgrimage is you can swing it).

8 comments:

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Thank you for this post. I love Waterhouse and Loreena. This was a wonderful way to begin my day. The links are also very informative. Hope you are holding up with all your workload.

Karen said...

I love Waterhouse's work. Thank you for sharing this!

Ellen said...

I had some art school training that brainwashed me against Waterhouse, and the Pre-Raphaelites because it was too sentimental and romantic. Glad I'm over that. How can anyone NOT love these? they're just soooo beautiful. Love the Loreena soundtrack, really did increase my viewing pleasure.

Koldo said...

I had the enormous pleasure of staring at this Waterhouse masterpiece at London's Tate Gallery.

One of the most fascinating things in this painting are the quilting fabrics with Celtic designs. Seeing this huge painting in its real dimension is breathtaking! I´m glad that people have the chance in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I loved the Waterhouse postcard you sent. I don't care of its in or out of fashion---its just my style. Elena

The Garden Ms. S said...

I'm a huge fan of Waterhouse - and Montreal! :) That sounds like a fantastic trip.

Jessie said...

The mermaid painting by him is my all time favourite. I have a small print of it by my drawing table and a large framed poster downstairs in the main family room. His girls are so beautiful, I always wanted hair like that!x

Bryan said...

Awesome, you're so lucky!