Bohemian: John William Waterhouse

As the scribe for this blog I have the luxurious task of creating posts that share a theme of our choosing. A talented member of our team came in one day excited about a book called Bohemian Modern. That was all it took… I got lost immediately in the idea of whom we would feature as part of our Bohemian series. I knew the fashion designers Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell were in, I also knew Freddie Mercury’s passion and talent would be the voice and sound. Bohemian interiors  are always a favorite, with the layers of textiles and casual lifestyle… but what direction to take the art?

I chose John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) for his beautiful paintings in the Pre-Raphaelite style and because the women in the paintings are draped in beautiful Bohemian style and surrounded by rich, colorful landscapes. As a painter in the Pre Raphaelites style, he embraced the idea of showing nature as bold, colorful and detailed. Decades after it had gone out of style in the British art world, Waterhouse painted in this style, which was also based on the idea that Raphael’s classical poses and compositions were a “corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art”.

I’m not an art historian, so I’ll leave it at that and encourage you to learn more about this group of artists. However, one bit of the history I learned hit home and must be shared. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood created a periodical called the Germ. It featured ideas, poetry and political writings among other things. The idea meaning “the Germ of an idea”. “The Germ was printed by Messrs. Tupper and Sons, a firm of lithographic and general printers in the City of London, who took a financial stake in the publication to try to ensure its success. However, only 70 of the first issue of 700 copies were sold. The print run was reduced for later editions, but sales did not pick up. The Tupper family had links to the Brotherhood. George Tupper bore the brunt of the financial losses.

A special limited edition (only 450 copies) of all four volumes of The Germ was published in 1898 on Van Gelder handmade paper, by Thomas B. Mosher, Portland, Maine, USA.” >> Wikipedia


Hylas and the Nymphs (detail), 1896


A Mermaid, 1900


Miranda, The Tempest (detail), 1906


Nymphs finding the Head of Orpheus, 1901


Miranda, The Tempest, 1916


Boreas, 1902


Lamia, 1908


Sketch for A Mermaid, 1900


Lady of Shalott, 1894