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19th Century European Art
Lot 96: PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE MIDWESTERN COLLECTION JOHN WILLIAM WATERHOUSE, R.A., R.I. BRITISH,(1 view)
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE MIDWESTERN COLLECTION JOHN WILLIAM WATERHOUSE, R.A., R.I. BRITISH, 1849-1917 FLORA
signed J.W. Waterhouse (lower right)
oil on canvas
Luke Fildes, London
Agnew's, 1894 (acquired directly from the above)
Gooden & Fox, London
Captain J. A. Harvey (acquired from the above, 1912)
Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, circa 1950 (acquired by the present owner's uncle)
(thence by descent, since 1972)
London, Royal Academy, 1891, no. 373
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Claude Phillips, Academy, May 9, 1891, p. 447
R. E. D. Sketchley, "The Art of J. W. Waterhouse", Art Journal, Christmas Number, 1909, p. 7
Anthony Hobson, The Art and Life of J.W. Waterhouse, 1849-1917, New York, 1980, no. 80, pl. 40, pp. 52, 53, 183,184, illustrated p. 53
Anthony Hobson, J. W. Waterhouse, London, 1989, p. 41
Peter Trippi, J. W. Waterhouse, London, 2002, pl. 74, pp. 99-101, illustrated p. 100
Painted circa 1890.
In the late 1880s, Waterhouse turned to plein air painting as a way to expand his artistic oeuvre. This approach had first proved enormously successful with The Lady of Shallot (1888, Tate Gallery, London) where the dramatic figure and literary narrative are supported by a naturalistic landscape of bright flowers, green banks, and glossy water. Rather than placing the tragic beauty in a theatrical or imagined setting as in The Magic Circle (1886, Tate Gallery, London), the artist was concerned with the visual impact of sunlight, vegetation and real surroundings. Hoping to further expand on this early experimentation, Waterhouse found ideal inspiration on the island of Capri, a then-popular artist colony abundant with incredible natural beauty and sun-dappled terraces, gardens, and islanders. As art historian Peter Trippi explains, the Mediterranean island allowed for the creation of Flora and its variation A Roman Offering (Fig. 1) which feature "fresh air, brighter tones, and a modified square-brush effect" (Trippi, p. 99) The model, with loosely tied hair, white shift askew, and lazily held fan, appears taken by the heat and lost in a hazy dream. She is a mix of mythological source (Flora, the goddess of gardens, figures prominently in Ovid's Fasti), island native with browned skin and ruddy hair, and English maid with heart shaped face?all enforced by the floral attributes of Continental and British varieties in the niche behind her. Melding a classical subject with an innovative plein air approach, Flora possessed "much of the technical charm of an Alma-Tadema, yet with a greater vitality" as exclaimed by art critic Phillips. (quoted in Trippi, p. 99). That rave review recognized what is so obvious today: this composition is one of unified grace and charm, infused with the pure joy of Capri's natural serenity, summer sun and gentle breezes.
We are grateful to Peter Trippi for providing additional catalogue information.
28 3/4 by 13 in.
73 by 33 cm
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19th Century European Art