Description: JOHN WILLIAM WATERHOUSE, R.A., R.I. BRITISH, 1849-1917 PORTRAIT OF PHYLLIS, YOUNGER DAUGHTER OF ERNEST A. WATERLOW ESQ., ARA
signed J. W. Waterhouse (lower right)
oil on canvas
We are grateful to Peter Trippi for providing additional catalogue information.
Sir Ernest A. Waterlow (commisioned directly from the artist)
Thence by descent, until 1995
Sale, Christie's, London, November 6, 1995, lot 118, illustrated
(acquired by the present owner at the above sale)
Royal Academy, 1895, no. 174
Sheffield, City Art Galleries, J. W. Waterhouse, R.A., 1978, no. 9
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Henry Blackburn (ed.), Royal Academy Notes, 1895, p. 9
Athenaeum, 3530, June 22, 1895, p. 811
A. L. Baldry, "Artists' Treasures. No. 1 - M. E. A. Waterlow's Collection," Studio, XVIII, 1900, pp. 100-149, illustrated p. 100
R. E. D. Sketchley, 'The Art of J. W. Waterhouse', Art Journal, Christmas Number, 1909, pp. 23, 32, illustrated
Anthony Hobson, The Art and Life of J.W. Waterhouse 1849-1917, New York, 1980, no. 113, pl. 66, pp. 80, 186, illustrated, p. 80
Peter Trippi, J. W. Waterhouse, London, 2002, pl. 115, pp. 143-145, illustrated p. 144
As art historian Peter Trippi explains "portraits of this period lived in the growing shadow of John Singer Sargent, yet Waterhouse avoided the American's nervous energy and informative settings, offering instead simple compositions and emotional restraint." (Trippi, p. 144) In this portrait of Phyllis, daughter of the celebrated landscapist, Ernest A. Waterlow, Waterhouse creates a shallow space defined only by a curtain and chair. The young girl's form is composed with a series of expressive strokes which make up her white gown. Phyllis' face is half-shaded, creating an intriguing air to her expression. At over five feet high, the young girl's portrait is almost life-size; standing portraits became more fashionable as Sargent's fame grew along with a growing appreciation of Velasquez, Van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Reynolds. Another strong influence was Whistler's portrait of the young Cicely Alexander (1872-4, Tate Museum, London), re-exhibited at the Guildhall in 1894.
Although not a father himself, Waterhouse obviously admired children for their uncomplicated beauty, innocence and vulnerability; from the 1890's they appeared as emblems of these virtues with increasing frequency in his subject paintings. Phyllis is on the verge of young womanhood, like her bouquet, she is a flower that will soon come to full bloom, and thus provokes a tender nostalgia in both artist and viewer. As such, more than a portrait, as Phylis looks out at the viewer, slightly aslant, we look back at her, subtly acknowleding her quiet innocence. Peter Trippi compares the "guileless gaze" of the facial expression of this portrait of Phyllis to the angels in Saint Cecilia and to the nymphs in King Hylas and the Water Nymphs two of his most celebrated and well known works. He places Phyllis between these two masterpieces in his book devoting an entire page to her image (Trippi, p.144).
Dimensions: 70 by 43 in.
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177.8 by 109.2 cm