Lady of Shalott was created by Waterhouse in 1888 and his career came about towards the latter parts of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and most art critics believe that his style took in much of what had gone before, but with an added creativity and great selection of topic. The painting is now held by the Tate in the UK and measures an impressive 153cm by 200cm.
Lady of Shalott the painting is an artistic representation by Waterhouse of a scene from the poem of the same name, written by Lord Alfred Tennyson. This poem teaches a story of a young woman named Elaine of Astolat who yearns unsuccessfully for Sir Lancelot and this painting sees her setting sail alone in a small boat. The painting itself features some supreme detail of various objects found within her boat and the overall scene is pretty and calming.
Elaine of Astolat featured in several different paintings from Waterhouse, but this is comfortably the best known of them. It was part four of the poem which specifically inspires the painting, describing the woman's longing for Camelot and her slow journey down the river in search of him. In some says it is a sad painting, as she seeks the impossible dream, but as a painting it still captures mythical beauty that is perfectly suited to the Pre-Raphaelite art movement.
Elaine of Astolat holds candles within her small boat as she makes her way along the river and at this time candles were used to symbolise life but in the painting two of the three have gone out. There may have been some significance in this as Waterhouse set up setting a mood to the scene and place some context around the journey being taken by the Lady of Shalott.
Much study has been made into this painting which was eventually donated into the British public's ownership by Sir Henry Tate in 1894. It is generally considered a predominantly pre-raphaelite painting thanks to the tones and subjects used within it, but the style used on the surrounding landscape is partly more from the earlier neo-classical movement.
The artist of this classic painting also created other highly notable works like Hylas and the Nymphs and Ophelia, which both also followed fictional scenes with the artist's own imagination to bring them to life. Waterhouse was clearly amongst the most talented artists to have come from the specifically British art movement and he had the added advantage of coming later on, allowing him to use the best that others had contributed and incorporate this with his own exceptional talent.
John William Waterhouse was influenced by Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton in the early days of his career and these were similarly British-based painters at a time when the UK was building it's own art movement which proved creative and high in integrity, with a desire for art development and freedom of expression in a similar way to how impressionism had done in France.
There are also opportunities to buy reproductions of Lady of Shalott as a framed art print or poster from the links included within this website.