100 Days of Art History Jinjins



This is the first of many John William Waterhouse copies. I had no idea that so many paintings I thought of as capital-A Art were by him until I started this project. But he painted many romanticized images of mythological subjects, and as a fantasy nerd, of course I ate them up. I liked the mystique and power that his legendary women had, and painting myself as them was a way of trying to confer that onto myself. Like playing dress-up.

I first came across this painting in The Toast (RIP), in the 2014 article Unsatisfied Women in Western Art History. It was captioned "why do i only have a stone lion for my LEFT HAND / what am i supposed to do with my right hand / besides BE DISAPPOINTED" and that really stuck with me. Can't look at this painting without my brain adding that caption in a thought bubble above her head.

Are romanticized Victorian paintings like this capital-G Great? I'm mulling this over. Clearly, I'm drawn to them. At the same time, I recognize that they're kind of inconsequential. They didn't revolutionize painting, they didn't show their society a new way to see the world, and they don't capture a raw life force. They're conventional and unchallenging. They are merely lovely. Which isn't the worst thing to be. "Lovely" takes a lot of skill, and John William Waterhouse had that skill. He was also great at storytelling through his images which makes them fun to look at 125 years after they were painted.

Reference image from here. It is now in a private collection.

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