John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917): The Soul of the

John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917): The Soul of the

11/14/2021, 2:16:36 PM
John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917): The Soul of the Rose, 1908, Oil on Canvas,91x 61 cm, Private collection 'The Soul of the Rose' was painted when John William Waterhouse, who took his inspiration mainly from English literature and classical mythology, was in his creative maturity. The artist's interpretation is characteristically ambiguous, perhaps linked only in terms of its generic medievalism. His protagonist leans forward to smell a rose. Her half-closed eyes suggest a degree of elective power, as if she hopes that the flower's scent will body forth some desired secret. The setting appears to be a walled Tuscan garden, evocative of paintings by 14th Century artists such as Fra Angelico. Both landscape and cultural heritage would have been familiar to Waterhouse who was born in Rome and returned to Italy during his student years. The paradox of the cloistered garden suits Waterhouse's theme well. Just as the rose's scent acts as a heady agent, emblematic of love's intensity, the limits of the garden reflect the concentration of experience implied by the story. The painting shows a balancing detail and abstraction, precision and softness, with consummate skill. The background building, for example, is realised with little tonal depth, to render it subsidiary to the foreground figure. Where Waterhouse wishes our eye to focus - for example on the model's hands - he works with deft exactitude. It is his sensuous, instinctive, handling of his medium, coupled with the luminosity of his romantic heroines, which ensures the essential timelessness of Waterhouse's art. Though she may still represent the object of another's desire, we are also invited to imagine her psychology, and to suppose a hidden narrative of thwarted or aspiring love. She is a participant rather than a passive symbol. As with several of Waterhouse's other works, this painting may have been inspired by a poem, by Alfred Tennyson as well. Below is an extract of the poem in question. It is called "Come into the Garden, Maud" and tells the story of a woman and her thoughts of her lost love. ⬇️👇👇⬇

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