The Lady of Shalott, Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott, Waterhouse
The Lady of Shalott, Waterhouse

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the European art scene was constantly seething with artistic currents: at the same time that realism was on the rise in France and the first echoes of impressionist aesthetics began to appear, in England a new artistic and literary movement was gaining increasing importance, Pre-Rafelism; According to the followers of this group, the painting of their time did nothing more than repeat the already hackneyed forms and finishes of Mannerist aesthetics, so repeated that they no longer made any sense. Pre-Raphaelite painters tried to return to detailed painting, with character, in which history was reflected on the canvas as part of it.


In this sense, the Pre-Raphaelite artists wanted to seek their sources of inspiration in painting prior to Raphael of Urbino –hence precisely its name- being medieval culture and literature their main source of inspiration. In this way, the painting that we are analyzing today is one of the best examples of painting of the time since it is based on one of the legends that most inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arthurian legend.

John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917) son of a well-known London painter, the artist was born in Rome, however his whole life would be linked to the British capital. Waterhouse kept aartistic style defined throughout his entire career, so the classification of his works can be done according to the theme of his compositions. The work we are analyzing here is known as The Lady of Shallot or The Lady of Shallot and is based on an ancient legend.

In the vicinity of the city of Camelot was the tower of Shallot in which a beautiful lady held by a curse lived. The young woman spent her time knitting and looking at the city of Camelot through a mirror since according to the curse that plagued her if she looked directly through the window she would die. One day the young woman was able to see Lancelot through her mirror and she was so captivated by her beauty that she forgot about the curse and looked directly at him. At that moment the tower where she lived began to shake and the lady managed to flee by getting on a boat until her blood ran cold and she died of the curse

This is precisely the moment chosen by the painter to represent the scene, the beautiful lady wanders on the barge waiting for death in the middle of a wooded landscape. Waterhouse has put the greatest detail in the representation of each element so that the viewer can fix his gaze on it at various points on the canvas to find details such as a crucifix or candles in the forest.

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