Articles about J.W. Waterhouse


The Mysterious Models of John William Waterhouse

By Cathy Baker

John William Waterhouse
Boreas (detail), 1903
(Private Collection)

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An "Idealized" Waterhouse Type

Peter Trippi describes the women in Waterhouse's works as an "idealized, instantly recognizable type."

"... Waterhouse transcended the particularities of individual models to present his own
idealized, instantly recognizable type ... Older contemporaries, such as Rossetti,
Poynter and Moore, had devised their own types." 
(Peter Trippi, J.W. Waterhouse, 2002)

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Ronald Graham had also written about the Waterhouse "type" in 1904.
"... such painters as Mr JW Waterhouse, R.A. also keep true to their own type of manhood and
womanhood however much they may be influenced by the model of the moment."
(Ronald Graham "Models for Famous Pictures", The Strand Magazine, September, 1904 - Courtesy Julia Kerr)

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In a short video from RTV Noord, a Dutch news organization, Peter Trippi briefly talked about some of the paintings that were on exhibit as part of the Waterhouse Retrospective presented at the Groninger Museum from December 2008 through 3 May 2009.
He also described the "Waterhouse girl" - or Waterhouse's "ideal type" - as an "an invented beauty". 
Peter goes on to say, "... it seems to me Waterhouse's ideal type was very much about what we call an English rose style." (Video link.)

John William Waterhouse
The Soul of the Rose (Study), 1908
(Some of the images have links to larger images if you tap them.)

The Mysterious Models

John William Waterhouse was a classical, romanticist painter, giving to his art highly imaginative interpretations of mythological characters and personages from ancient history as well as from poetry and literature. Though that "idealized, instantly recognizable type" found in his paintings is part of what we remember and admire about the artist's work ... there is always interest in Waterhouse's models. Those who have sought to study the life of John William Waterhouse have sadly not found journals or other sources of information to guide them in their quest to learn more about this very private man. Information about the names of models other than family members has only started to come to light in recent years. 


We have known that family members
posed for Waterhouse and appear in some of his works.


Jessie Waterhouse
The artist's sister

John William Waterhouse
Portrait of a Young Woman, 1875
Whispered Words, 1875

There are no surviving photographs of Waterhouse's sister. Peter Trippi believes, though, that the above portrait by the artist could possibly be of Jessie. The catalogue entry for the painting, Whispered Words, included a poem about a woman named 'Jessie' and it is believed this refers to the artist's sister. If this painting and Portrait of a Young Woman are of Waterhouse's sister, it is thought her likeness also appears in other paintings by the artist through about 1880.

John William Waterhouse
Portrait of a Young Woman (detail), 1875
(Private Collection)

Mary Waterhouse
The artist's half-sister

John William Waterhouse
The Lady of Shalott, 1888
(Tate Britain, London, England)

Dr John Physick, great-nephew of Waterhouse, shared in 2002: "... My father's mother was the artist's sister Mary. Nearly seventy years ago, she told me that her brother used her portrait as the model for The Lady of Shalott in the Tate Gallery." In his 2002 publication, Peter Trippi wrote that the model for The Magic Circle was probably "May Waterhouse."

John William Waterhouse
The Magic Circle, 1886
(Tate Britain, London, England)  


Esther Waterhouse
The artist's wife

"On September 8, 1883, John William Waterhouse married Esther Kenworthy at the parish church of St Mary, Ealing. He was then thirty-four and she twenty-five. The names of his father, his step-mother, his sister Jessie, the bride’s mother and one of her brothers appear on the marriage certificate. Esther’s father, James Lees Kenworthy – himself an artist, who with his wife kept a school in Ealing – had died seven years previously.” (Anthony Hobson, The Art and Life of J.W. Waterhouse, RA, 1849-1917, 1980)

John William Waterhouse
Esther Kenworthy Waterhouse (circa 1885)
(Sheffield City Art Galleries, Sheffield, England)

And from Peter Trippi:

“… No records reveal when Nino and Esther met. Kenworthy family tradition suggests that they met through her father …”

“Esther’s career remains a mystery. Of the nine Kenworthy children, only she identified herself as an artist in the census … Esther did not study at the Slade or South Kensington, though perhaps elsewhere. She specialized in flower painting, and her documented career began in 1881 at the Academy, where she showed one or two pictures regularly until 1889, and where she may have met Nino. During the 1880s, Esther showed six pictures at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, and a handful at the SBA, New Gallery, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.”

“Her exhibiting ended suddenly in 1890, for no obvious reason. … Esther’s art has vanished, was never reviewed, and there is no evidence that she collaborated with her husband on his paintings.” (Peter Trippi, J. W. Waterhouse, 2002)

Photographs of Esther Waterhouse

One of the paintings Esther exhibited at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours is included in the Institute's 1884 catalogue. Another record of her work is found in The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work from Its Foundation in 1769 to 1904 by Algernon Graves - she is listed in Vol. IV as Miss Esther Kenworthy and then in Vol. VIII as Mrs. John William Waterhouse. Her husband's name appears just before hers in Vol. VIII with the list of paintings he exhibited at the Royal Academy through 1904.

Nino (as Waterhouse was known to family and friends) and Esther Waterhouse can be found in The Bank and Royal Exchange, a painting by their friend and Primrose Hill Studios neighbor, William Logsdail. Waterhouse is seated to the left below, Esther sits beside him. Esther's brother-in-law, landscape painter Peregrine Feeney, and Esther's sister Emily are next. Logsdail sits behind the Waterhouses. Joseph Wolf sits behind and to the right of the Feeney's.

William Logsdail
The Bank and Royal Exchange (detail), 1887
(Private Collection) 

The third photograph on the linked page that follows shows the Waterhouses with family and friends in the courtyard of the Primrose Hill Studios. Esther appears with other Primrose Hill artists in a cariature of 'The Primrose Hill School'. The cariature was included in Peter Trippi's biography of Waterhouse. Trippi wrote that Waterhouse, "... probably derived at least some expertise in depicting animals from his neighbour Joseph Wolf, who appears in this caricature, and in painting flowers from Esther ...." It seems that Esther was also a writer. She is reported to have written reviews of theatre productions.

Between about 1892 and 1911, Nino and Esther Waterhouse spent some holidays at Croyde in Devon. Peregrine and Emily Feeney, had a home there (Hobson, Art, 51, 134). Julia Kerr shared with me that the name of the Feeney's home at Croyde was 'Spring Haven'. In response to an inquiry I made about 'Spring Haven', Deborah Gahan, Barnstaple Local Studies Librarian, shared the following information about Peregrine Feeney and the Baggy Point area near Croyde:

"I have found P M Feeney listed as a private resident at 'Spring Haven' in Kelly's 1889 'Directory of Devon' and again in White's 1890 'History, Gazetteer & Directory of Devon' where the address is expanded to 'Spring Haven, Croyde Bay'. The 1891 Census shows a nephew, Harry Feeney Hyde in residence at 'Spring Haven' whilst Peregrine Feeney is recorded at 7 Primrose Hill Studios, St Pancras. In 1901 he is back in Croyde himself although the address is given as Baggy Point. The Census was recorded in order geographically and as this address appears in the same place in both years in relation to others I would think that the name of the property was either omitted or had been changed at this time. Baggy Point is the headland of Croyde Bay and there is a property known as 'Baggy House' ... If my memory serves me well the original house was demolished and replaced by a new building [2nd photo] of award winning design in recent years ... Looking at large scale OS mapping 'Baggy House' does not appear on the 1st Edition 25" c.1889 but does on the 2nd Edition c.1904. However there are other unnamed properties, one of which is further along the point and near a spring to which the name could have applied but this doesn't appear to be on the modern map."  

It is thought Esther appears in the painting, Gathering Summer Flowers in a Devonshire Garden.
Peter Trippi notes, "In Gathering Flowers JWW wrote 'Croyde' below his signature."

John William Waterhouse
Gathering Summer Flowers in a Devonshire Garden (circa 1893-1910)
(Private Collection)


Gwendoline Gunn
A friend of the family

The Marcus and Mary Eliza Gunn family also spent holidays at Croyde (Trippi, 207) and a friendship developed between the families - a friendship that would extend over several years. Gwendoline Gunn (1882-1977) was one of the Gunn's daughters. Mrs. Donner, Gwendoline's daughter, would later be one of the friends who helped care for Esther Waterhouse during her last days (Hobson, Art, 144). In the mid-1970's, Mrs. Donner shared with Anthony Hobson information about her families' friendship with Waterhouse (Hobson, Life, v). The friendship between Gwendoline Gunn's family and the Waterhouses continued through the years until Esther's death in 1944. In his 1980 publication, Anthony Hobson included a portrait of Gwendoline painted by Nino. Some feel that Gwendoline only posed for pictures of herself. But, perhaps her inspiration extended to other paintings by Waterhouse ... including Psyche Opening the Golden Box (1903), Nymphs finding the Head of Orpheus (1900), Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid's Garden (1904) and The Enchanted Garden (1916):


John William Waterhouse
Psyche Opening the Golden Box, 1903
Nymphs finding the Head of Orpheus,(detail) 1900
Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid's Garden, 1904
The Enchanted Garden (detail), 1916

Page 80 of Anthony Hobson's 1978 dissertation, The Life and Work of J.W. Waterhouse, R.A., begins with the closing lines of a quotation from The Magazine of Art that accompanied a reproduction of Waterhouse's 1893 painting, La Belle Dame Sans Merci: "… the artistic and poetic mystery and tenderness of La Belle Dame Sans Merci were widely, though not fully, acknowledged, and the work was held to mark another step forward in the career of its accomplished author" (also Art, 76). In the next paragraph, Dr. Hobson wrote: "Waterhouse's newly-discovered model for this picture was his ideal type, and she appeared appropriately as A Mermaid … in his Diploma Work for the Royal Academy. ..." (also Art, 76). The page ends with these lines: "... the girl in question sat for him regularly. She can be identified in most of the major subject pictures of the following years. We are told that he treated her very well, and that she sent a beautiful wreath to his funeral" (also Art, 77). (Followed in Anthony Hobson's dissertation by the footnote: "Mrs. Donner, who owns a study for Psyche Opening the Golden Box …, in which this model appears, in conversation with the author.") 

Dr. Hobson's 1980 Catalogue of Works includes listings for studies in oils, paintings, pencil studies and chalk studies that Gwendoline was given. In the picture credits of Peter Trippi's book about the artist, The Merman (c. 1892), a Landscape sketch for A Naiad (1892), and a Study for Flora in Flora and the Zephyrs (c. 1897-8) are listed in the same private collection as a chalk study of Beatrice McKay Gunn, Gwendoline's sister (Trippi, 251). I didn't find listings for the second two works in Dr. Hobson's 1980 Catalogue of Works, but The Merman is among the Catalogue’s entries. Dr. Hobson begins the provenance of the painting with Esther Waterhouse, the painting being part of her late husband's estate. It was given by Esther to Gwendoline Gunn and Gwendoline bequeathed it to her daughter (Art, 195). Holiday times at the beautiful seaside retreat of Croyde most likely provided some of Waterhouse's inspirations for A Mermaid and other paintings ... and the gift of The Merman must have been a treasured reminder of those times along the Devon coast. 

Another painting Dr. Hobson lists in his Catalogue of Works as being given to Gwendoline is a study for Psyche Opening the Golden Box (Art, 189). As mentioned above, Gwendoline's daughter owned the painting at the time she shared with Dr. Hobson information about the model he wrote sat for Waterhouse "regularly" ... the person thought to "be identified in most of the major subject pictures of the following years" ... including this one. In a conversation with Dr. Hobson about the model, Mrs. Donner shared that Waterhouse "treated her very well, and that she sent a beautiful wreath to his funeral." Why did Esther give the painting to Gwendoline? Was it a gift to a cherished friend who only sat "for paintings of herself" ... or in addition to being a cherished friend, could Gwendoline also have been the person her daughter referred to in the conversation with Dr. Hobson … the person who sat for Waterhouse regularly and "sent a beautiful wreath to his funeral"? With no records to confirm or deny this, we unfortunately can't know for sure. A member of her family doesn't believe the quotation refers to Gwendoline. As a friend who sat for the artist she must have been an inspiration to him, though, and is surely a part of that unique beauty represented in the art of J. W. Waterhouse. Gwendoline came into Nino and Esther's lives in the early 1890s when they began to join the Feeney's for holidays in the Croyde area. Peter Trippi has said this is the time period when Waterhouse "hits his mature style" and when the figures in his paintings "come into what we call the 'Waterhouse girl'." Dr. Hobson wrote about a "newly-discovered model" that Waterhouse was inspired by during this time period. Perhaps the girl they met at Croyde with the same Scottish heritage as his mother was both a friend through the coming years and a source of inspiration to his art as members of his family had been.

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The faces of models and friends filled his sketchbooks and canvases over the years.

Anthony Hobson wrote:
"Any consideration of his later work will show how closely his pictures are built around
the actual presence in the studio of a few favourite models …"
(Art, 76; Life, 80). 


“… both his sketches and paintings foster the idea of his quiet daily retreat into the basement
studio with the beautiful young model and a volume of Shelley or Tennyson for inspiration"
(Art, 111).


"... there is a whole series of finely modeled female heads in chalk, a number of which may be of friends rather than professional models. Both are extremely difficult to identify after this lapse of time, even with the aid of the names and addresses scribbled into his sketchbooks." He continues, "But the paintings show how as the years went by he continually sought his ideal vision of womanhood, rather than some character type adapted to each new subject. The remarkable thing is that he found her and remained faithful to her in his art, reflecting the distant ideal of medieval courtly love in the warmed mirrors of Italian passion and Greek sensuality."
(Anthony Hobson, The Art and Life of J W Waterhouse RA 1849-1917, 1980)

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Some photos from Flickr show a few of the pages from the sketchbooks that were on exhibit at the Groninger Museum when the Waterhouse exhibition was there. Two photographs of the sketchbooks from Peter van der Steege and another from Sandori.

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Julia Kerr found the following statement written by Waterhouse. It comes from the March 1908 issue of The Strand Magazine. In the article, Artists and Beauty: The Opinions of Eminent Painters, the artists were asked to select from a group of photographs the person they would want as a model. Waterhouse wrote of his choice:

“If I had to select one of these ladies,” said Mr. Waterhouse, “as a model for painting, I should have no hesitation about my choice. The lady of my preference, indeed, reminds me very much of one of my models. After she had been sitting to me for some time she went on the stage, and succeeding in obtaining fairly important parts, she naturally did not care to resume her former profession, and for some time I have lost sight of her. She sat only for the face. The face, as in this photograph, is so singularly beautiful that I was very sorry to lose the opportunity of painting it, and I have written once or twice lately to the lady's old address but without obtaining a reply.”

The following is the photograph Waterhouse selected:

(Image courtesy Julia Kerr)

The above quotation is important as it is the first known quotation from the artist about his preference for a model and includes some information about a woman who was a model for him "for some time". Perhaps research will lead us to the identity of the person he wrote about.

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Some Names of Models We Now Know

John William Waterhouse
Head of a Girl
(Private Collection)

Anthony Hobson believed the knight cloaked in armour in La Belle Dame Sans Merci was "emblematic of" Waterhouse's "own Victorian propriety," and he wrote, "there has been no suggestion of any dubious relationship between J W Waterhouse and his models". Karen E. Sullivan in her 1996 book, Pre-Raphaelites, describes Waterhouse as a quiet man with none of the "private passions" and turbulent home life that characterized many of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Rupert Mass wrote, it "is likely to be that he chose his models as subjects of his romantic vision, not that the models themselves were the object of it, and that is why his beautiful yearning girls conform to a type.”

The list of Waterhouse models has grown since only family members Jessie, Mary and Esther Waterhouse were known about. Some names are gladly now known, but not the detailed stories that go with the individuals that sat before Waterhouse as he sketched or painted. Most of the names are of models that also worked with other artists of the time. Hopefully more names and their stories will come to light in the future.

Waterhouse Models

Alice Arter
Ethel Bantock
Harry Beresford
Angelo Colarossi
'Miss Kate Double'
'Miss Muriel Foster'
Beatrice Hackman
'Miss Lloyd'
Agnes Richardson
Edith Richardson


-- Alice Arter --

A June 1896 journal entry by John Paul Cooper has revealed Alice Arter was a Waterhouse model. Peter Trippi shared, "... the Arts & Crafts designer, John Paul Cooper, wrote in 1896 that Alice Arter sat for Waterhouse ...". The information originally appeared in N. Natasha Kuzmanovic's 1999 publication, John Paul Cooper: Designer and Craftsman of the Arts & Crafts Movement and reads, "... have been working at Gesso workbox particularly the frieze of figures on the front for which I have had Alice Arter to sit to me. She sits to Burne-Jones, Sargeant [sic], Abbey and Waterhouse."   (Example of a 1908 gesso box designed by John Paul Cooper.)


-- Ethel Bantock --
-- Harry Beresford --

John William Waterhouse
Echo and Narcissus, 1903
(Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England)

Some of Waterhouse's sketchbooks are at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as a gift from Dr. John Physick, the great-nephew of the artist. In his article, A Waterhouse Sketch Discovered, Scott Thomas Buckle writes about finding the names of four Waterhouse models written on the pages of one of the sketchbooks: Angelo Colarossi, Harry Beresford, 'Miss Bantick' and Kate Double.

He shares with us that, V&A sketchbook (E.1111-1963), "contains a preparatory sketch for Echo and Narcissus inscribed with the names and addresses of two models. The first, 'Beresford', of '19 St Olaf's Road, Fulham', can be found in the 1901 Census lists as 'Henry Beresford', a 21 year old whose profession is given as 'Artist's Model'. ... The second name beside the 'Echo and Narcissus' sketch in the V&A sketchbook (and seemingly unrecorded in any published literature on Waterhouse) is a 'Miss Bantick'."  (Scott Thomas Buckle) 

In Scott's most recent article, Ethel and Narcissus - a closer look at two of Waterhouse’s models, he shares about an address book that once belonged to Waterhouse's friend and fellow artist, John Seymour Lucas. This was an important source of information he used to confirm Ethel Bantock (first thought to be 'Bantick') was the model Waterhouse had made a note about on his sketch for Echo and Narcissus. Sketches of both Harry Beresford and Ethel Bantock are in the Seymour Lucas address book. (images shared in Scott's article)

Several months ago I was looking through some copies of the Royal Academy Pictures and Sculpture series and found a drawing by John Seymour Lucas in the 1907 edition titled, Mrs Massey-Beaumont. The person in the drawing reminded me of Seymour Lucas's sketch of Ethel Bantock from his address book. A Roundaley by Seymour Lucas serves as the frontispiece of the book and the woman in the painting seemed to resemble the woman in the drawing which made me wonder if she had been the model for the painting. When I checked through online marriage records I found that an 'Ethel Bantock' of Fulham, London married in 1903. Had Ethel's married name become 'Massey-Beaumont'?

After receiving a copy of the marriage certificate I found that Ethel had married the artist and engraver, Robert Stewart Clouston. So, it seems the sketch of Mrs Massey-Beaumont wasn't of Ethel. Ethel Bantock became Mrs R S Clouston on Thursday, November 26, 1903. The ceremony took place at the Fulham Register Office with two witnesses. Robert was 46 years old at the time of the wedding and a widower. Ethel was 28 years old. They both lived in the Shepherds Bush area of London. Clouston's address was given as 151 Percy Road and Ethel's as 111 Coningham Road - which as Scott pointed out is just east of Percy Road and north of Ravenscourt Park. Scott also shared that Angelo Colarossi was a Percy Road resident, at number 93. Robert's father, Charles Clouston is listed as a 'Clergyman' on the certificate and James William Bantock, Ethel's father, a 'Chemist'.

W S Hewison's Who was Who in Orkney gives this information about Clouston: "b.1857 Sandwick, Orkney d.1911 Sydney, Australia. Artist; s. of Rev Charles Clouston and Margaret Clouston of Smoogro, Orphir. Educ. St Andrews, Edinburgh University 1876 and studied art at Royal Scottish Academy College of Art, Edinburgh. Exhibited at both Royal Academy, London and Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, mainly portraits and mezzotints, an art form in which he was recognised as a leading exponent in the country and for which he devised a new method of preparing the plates. Interested in archaeology he carried out first excavation of Onston cairn in Stenness. Also produced book on 18th century furniture ... Moving to New Zealand for health reasons continued painting, mostly portraits."

The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work from Its Foundation in 1769 to 1904 (1905) gives a list of the engravings shown by Robert at the Royal Academy beginning in 1888 until 1897. The sketch of Ethel in the Seymour Lucas address book is thought to have been made circa 1896-7.

It seems Robert and Ethel moved to the Mayfair area of London after they married. Both the 1904 and the 1905 The Year's Art give "29 Maddox st., W" as the address of R. S. Clouston. This location is northeast of the Royal Academy and it had been the home of the woodcarver George Alfred Rogers until his death in 1897.

Basil Hunnisett wrote in his 1998 publication, Engraved on Steel: The History of Picture Production Using Steel Plates that "Clouston emigrated to Australia in 1909 and died there after an accident in 1911. ..." The following is from the book, Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook: "CLOUSTON, Robert S. d.1911 ... Exhibited with NZ Academy of Fine Arts 1909–10."

So, it seems Ethel and Robert were married eight years when she became a widow in 1911. One would imagine she traveled to Australia with him - did she remain there after his death? Hopefully more information will be discovered about her life. (More information has been found recently to confirm they lived in New Zealand (and then Australia for a short time) ... I hope to update this soon.)


-- Angelo Colarossi --

John William Waterhouse
The Favourites of the Emperor Honorius, 1883
(Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide)

In A Waterhouse Sketch Discovered, Scott Thomas Buckle reveals "that the name 'A Colarossi' is inscribed by the artist" in V&A sketchbook (E1109-1963), verifying an association between Waterhouse and the Italian model, Angelo Colarossi. Scott goes on to share that Colarossi can be seen "in the background of the 1883 painting The Favourites of the Emperor Honorius ..." (See fourth image in Scott's article.)

John William Waterhouse
The Favourites of the Emperor Honorius (detail), 1883
(Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide)


-- 'Miss Kate Double' -- 

John William Waterhouse
Sleep and His Half-Brother Death, 1874
(Private Collection)

It is believed Waterhouse sketched the young men in Sleep and His Half-Brother Death "from a female model" (Trippi, 29). A note in Peter Trippi's book describes a drawing found in V&A sketchbook (E1109-1963): "a sleeping head is annotated 'Miss Kate Double ...'. It seems the sketch of 'Miss Kate Double' was one preparatory work done by Waterhouse for his painting from 1874. Scott Thomas Buckle shares in his article, A Waterhouse Sketch Discovered, that Kate Double "is known to have posed for Whistler." 


-- Beatrice Hackman --

Beatrice's grandson shared with Anthony Hobson and later with us and others that she had been a Waterhouse model. He said that she would visit his gravesite after the artist's death. In recent years a family member wrote about Beatrice as a model at this website's forum. The family believes she was a model for Waterhouse's The Soul of the Rose.  

-- 'Miss Lloyd' --

Sir Frank Dicksee
The Mirror, 1896
Private Collection

Letter to Miss Lloyd, written by Julia Kerr, gives information about a letter written from Waterhouse to 'Miss Lloyd'. It is thought the letter is addressed to Mary Lloyd. Julia shared in the article that Lloyd was "a professional artists' model who sat for several well-known Victorian painters, including Sir Frank Dicksee and Lord Leighton". In the short note, Waterhouse asks 'Miss Lloyd' if she is available to sit for him and asks to meet with her at the Royal Academy. The article isn't currently available online, but the note can be viewed at this link.

Transcript of the note:

Dear Miss Lloyd
Can you take a sitting
for the head at the
R.A. on Tuesday
next?   If so will
you be at the schools
at a quarter before
Yours truly
J. W. Waterhouse


-- Agnes Richardson --

The article, Letter to Miss Lloyd, also shared information about Agnes Richardson. Research by Simon Toll has revealed her to be a model for both Waterhouse and Herbert Draper. Toll wrote, "Draper was certainly in close contact with Waterhouse by 1892 when the older artist introduced him to one of his models, Miss Agnes Richardson."


-- Edith Richardson --

John William Waterhouse
Head of a Girl
(Private Collection)

In correspondence with Simon Toll, he shared with us that "based upon physical resemblence to a drawing by Draper" he believed the model in the Waterhouse sketch above to be Edith Richardson. Toll wrote in his monograph about Herbert Draper that the artist thought Edith "a better model" than her sister, Agnes.


-- 'Miss Muriel Foster' --

The name was first discovered in the Catalogue of Works of Anthony Hobson's 1980 monograph as the title for a Lamia study. The study was not published, but was thought to be similar to another Lamia sketch by Waterhouse that had appeared in The Studio. In recent years, a sketch with the inscription, 'Miss Muriel Foster' was found in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art (shown below). With that discovery we found that the studies weren't at all similar. The remainder of the writing on the side of the paper is: 'Buxton Rd, Chingford'. This was new information about the inscription and helped to identify a seventeen year old S. Muriel Foster (1884-1974) that lived at 13 Buxton Road, Chingford at the time of the 1901 census. A descendant has shared the following photograph of the Muriel Foster that lived on Buxton Road. It is displayed next to the Study for Lamia (Yale Center for British Art) with the inscription, 'Miss Muriel Foster, Buxton Rd, Chingford'.

Photograph of Muriel Foster of 13 Buxton Road, Chingford / John William Waterhouse, Study for Lamia

[A note about another Muriel Foster: Before the Study for Lamia shown above was found at the Yale Center for British Art it hadn’t been known that along with the inscription ‘Miss Muriel Foster’ there was also the information, ‘Buxton Road, Chingford’. Without benefit of that information, searches conducted in the late 1990s through birth records had revealed a Muriel Foster that was a second cousin of the architect Alfred Waterhouse. At the time it was thought she was the most likely candidate to be a Waterhouse model. After the information about Buxton Road, Chingford was found, census records revealed a S. Muriel Foster (1884-1974) that had lived at 13 Buxton Road, Chingford at the time of the 1901 census. This ruled out the second cousin of Alfred Waterhouse – Muriel Foster (1878-1969) – as the most likely candidate. When I received the catalogue for the Waterhouse exhibition from the Groninger Museum I found that page 208 included the outdated information about the Muriel Foster (1878-1969) who was a second cousin of Alfred Waterhouse. I contacted Peter Trippi. It was too late to change the information in the catalogue to include the more recent information about S. Muriel Foster (1886-1974) that had lived at 13 Buxton Road, Chingford and who is now the most likely candidate.]

As has been written before, it isn't known with certainty why Waterhouse wrote the name 'Miss Muriel Foster' on the side of the sketch. When the name was first discovered in association with a study for Lamia ... and the sketch itself had not been seen ... it was thought by some she was a favourite Waterhouse model Anthony Hobson had written about. That is no longer the case. Peter Trippi wrote, "The inscription is problematic because 1904-5 seems late in their relationship for Waterhouse to record his favourite model's name."

Trippi continues ...
"... the search remains open."

Peter also wrote that "Waterhouse relied on two or three principal models during each phase of his career ..."

Without the aid of journals or other personal papers to shed light on Waterhouse's models
we have only their names ... and not the thoughts of the artist to guide us.

When Anthony Hobson wrote about a "favourite" model he did it with a quote from Gwendoline Gunn's daughter, Mrs. Donner.
A quote that has made me long for clarification.

"... the girl in question sat for him regularly.
She can be identified in most of the major subject pictures of the following years.
We are told that he treated her very well, and that she sent a beautiful wreath to his funeral."

(Followed in Anthony Hobson's dissertation by the footnote:
"Mrs. Donner, who owns a study for Psyche Opening the Golden Box …, in which this model appears, in conversation with the author.")

It seems they knew the name of the model being referred to ... but, we can not now know for sure who that is.
I've wondered if perhaps she was speaking about her mother ... Gwendoline Gunn.
A member of her family, though, doesn't think this is the case.
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And so, they truly are ... the mysterious models of John William Waterhouse.

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John William Waterhouse
The Mystic Wood, 1916
(Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)

Photographs of John William Waterhouse

Waterhouse had been suffering from cancer for some time, and in 1916 while he continued to work on The Enchanted Garden he was approaching the end of his journey. Inspired in so much of his art by the poetry of Keats, one could wonder if Waterhouse may have had in mind the imagery of the "lily on the brow" and the "rose on the cheek" of the ailing knight in Keats' poem, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, when he included the unfinished slab-like structure in The Enchanted Garden. With lilies at its "brow" and roses at its "cheek," and poppies symbolic of oblivion at its foot, is it emblematic of his illness and impending death? A beautiful planter, decorated with grapevines, deer and birds (that might be found in an enchanted garden) now rests upon the slab that covers the Waterhouse gravesite at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

Anthony Hobson suggested The Enchanted Garden "is perhaps a refuge" for Waterhouse. "Surely here he pictured the desired haven, peopled by these well-beloved figures free from cold and pain" (Art, 141). Christopher Wood wrote, "The painting makes a fitting epitaph, for what is the work of Waterhouse if not an enchanted garden?" (146).

John William Waterhouse died on 10 February 1917, before the painting was finished.
His art continues to bring joy and inspiration to so many.

John William Waterhouse
The Enchanted Garden, 1916
(Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK)

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Some months ago, Julia Kerr shared with the Waterhouse Forum a portrait drawing by Waterhouse of Aline Henderson. The drawing had been a wedding gift from Waterhouse to Aline. Anthony Hobson shared this about the drawing: "A letter from Waterhouse to Mr H W Henderson's eldest daughter enclosed a drawing as a present on the occasion of her marriage to Brig-Gen Wigan. The wedding was on 15 February 1911 and the letter is dated 'June 13'. Reminiscent of his characteristic delay over his Diploma picture, it is addressed 'My dear Aline' and refers to 'the promised drawing, my belated wedding present, which I hope you will accept with my best wishes'. ... one gets a sense of the artist first patronized by her father about twelve years earlier having become something of a friend of the family."

John William Waterhouse
Portrait Head of Aline Henderson
(detail), 1911
Private collection

H W Henderson was the brother of Alexander Henderson, 1st Lord Farington (see towards middle of the linked webpage). Hobson wrote, "only a sincere admiration for Waterhouse's work can explain the number of his paintings owned by four generations of the Henderson family. They amount to over thirty and comprise not only some of the masterpieces of the artist's middle period such as St Cecilia and Ariadne but pictures representative of almost the whole of his later output from 1903 to 1914. There are also family portraits of Lady Violet Henderson (1908), daughter-in-law of the first and mother of the second Lord Faringdon, of Mrs A P Henderson (1909), Mrs Philip Henderson (1913) and Mrs Arnold Henderson (1914), all exhibited at the Royal Academy."

There are several paintings by Waterhouse that seem to capture the same likeness shown in the portrait of Aline. The video, John William Waterhouse - A portrait drawing in red chalk compares the drawing given to Aline to those paintings.

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References and Credits:
Scott Thomas Buckle, A Waterhouse Sketch Discovered,, 2005.
-------------------, Ethel and Narcissus - a closer look at two of Waterhouse’s models,, 2008
Peter Clouston, The Family of Clouston,
Anthony Hobson, The Art and Life of J.W. Waterhouse, RA, 1849-1917, Rizzoli 1980.
Julia Kerr, Letter to Miss Lloyd,
Rupert Maas, British Pictures, The Maas Gallery, 2006.
K.E. Sullivan, Pre-Raphaelites, 1996.
Simon Toll, Herbert Draper 1863-1920; A Life Study, Antique Collectors' Club, 2003.
Peter Trippi, J.W. Waterhouse, Phaidon Press, 2002.

© Cathy Baker 2008 (last updated 2012) The Mysterious Models of John William Waterhouse


An appeal was begun in 2008 by The Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery to restore the grave of John William Waterhouse.
The amount needed for the restoration hasn't been reached as yet.
For more information follow the links below.

John William Waterhouse: Monument Restoration Appeal

Another link with a more recent email address for information.

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AVRO Close Up in association with the Groninger Museum produced a documentary about John William Waterhouse as part of the retrospective presented at the museum. AVRO is a Dutch public broadcasting association supported by Netherlands Public Broadcasting. The nearly 52 minute documentary begins in Dutch but then goes to English with Dutch subtitles.

AVRO Close up: De betoverende vrouwen van John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse
Gather Ye Rosebuds while ye may (detail), 1908
(Private Collection)
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The Waterhouse exhibition at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada concluded February 7, 2010.
There is a still a section at their website to celebrate the exhibition

Included in the section are videos that were filmed when the exhibition was at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in which
Peter Trippi "takes an in-depth look at key works in the exhibition".

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A wonderful video from ArtMagick:
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse.
"A slideshow of Waterhouse's paintings, studies and drawings inspired by Tennyson's poem The Lady of Shalott. Includes photos of Waterhouse, and of his edition of Tennyson's poems in which he sketched out ideas for paintings ..."

Another short video from RTV Noord filmed just before the Waterhouse retrospective opened at the Groninger Museum in December 2008. A few of Waterhouse's works are shown (including some sketches) commentary is given by Peter Trippi, Sir Tim Rice and Robert Upstone. Peter also visits the Primrose Hill Studios and you can see the front door and courtyard of 6 Primrose Hill Studios - Waterhouse used that studio from 1887-1900. He had leased the smaller number 3 from 1878-1886.

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 Other videos:

John William Waterhouse - That "Idealized" Waterhouse Type

 John William Waterhouse - A Sonata of Beauty

'The Magic Circle' + Some stars of the Victorian Stage
Family members who posed for Waterhouse

A friendship that began at Croyde


First published on December 24, 2008.
Last updated on October 16, 2015.

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