Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 208 x 135 cm
Location: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
This article discusses how Waterhouse embraced the Pre-Raphaelite style in Diogenes. We will also discuss Waterhouse’s conception and painting of Diogenes, and what his work meant to his contemporaries. Diogenes was a Greek philosopher of religion who had no social identity or kinship. Nevertheless, despite his social and personal isolation, he nonetheless left his mark on his contemporaries.
Waterhouse embraced Pre-Raphaelite style
William Waterhouse was a painter from England, who was part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Other prominent members of the group were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt. Although Waterhouse was born in 1843, he was baptised on 6 April, which many consider to be an error. He may have actually been born on January 1, although the date is uncertain. In 1882, Waterhouse was exhibiting works in the Royal Academy and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, both in London and New York.
Diogenes 1882 is the first of Waterhouse’s masterpieces that embrace the style of the Pre-Raphaelites. His interpretation of the Pre-Raphaelite movement is very different from Burne-Jones’s, but the painters of the same era embraced a variety of styles. Waterhouse’s Diogenes (1882) and Whispered Words (1893) are among the most famous Pre-Raphaelite works. Both are regarded as classic works of art by critics.
Waterhouse’s conception of Diogenes
John William Waterhouse’s conception of Diogene focuses on the Greek philosopher who is best known for his work on morality and behavior. The philosopher was a controversial figure of the time, who made a virtue out of his poverty, sleeping in a large ceramic jar in a market place. Waterhouse contrasts the richly dressed women with the uncouth, bareheaded man. The painting also depicts a young woman who substitutes for Alexander, and stands between Diogenes and the sun.
The artist’s work on Diogenes is not limited to his own works, however. Many works by other artists reference the philosopher in some way or another. French and Russian writers have referred to Diogenes, including William Blake, Francois Rabelais, Goethe, and Denis Diderot. In addition to this, his work has been referenced by Fyodor Dostoevsky in works like The Friend of the Family and The Idiot.
Waterhouse’s painting of Diogenes
John William Waterhouse painted this famous portrait of a Cynic philosopher in 1882. The subject was well known in Ancient Greece as the creator of cynic philosophy. Waterhouse’s portrait shows Diogenes relaxing in his bath. He is looking away from the ladies who make fun of him. In the background, a marble staircase and mountains add depth and verticality to the painting. In addition to the Greek cynic philosopher, one of the women is wearing a Japanese parasol.
Diogenes was a controversial figure in Greek history. He was expelled from his hometown Sinope for debasing the currency and later moved to Athens. There, he began to question the cultural conventions of the city and used his simple life-style to criticize them. The non-traditional lifestyle of Diogenes earned him a reputation as a radical. He toughened himself against nature and declared himself a cosmopolitan citizen.
Waterhouse’s influence on Didactylos
Although the early PRB were inspired by the medieval illustrated manuscripts and tapestries, Waterhouse was influenced by a more modern style of painting. His influence can be seen in a series of paintings that are based on mythology, literature, and history, including The Enchanted Garden, the Persephone legend, and Lamia. Waterhouse’s paintings were influenced by the style of the Impressionists, whose technique involved painting plein air. The result is a striking break from the cloistered aesthetics of the early PRB and engages with optical effects.
Waterhouse derived inspiration from the story of the legendary witch Circe. Circe, who was inspired by the story of the Odyssey, became immortal in the tale, and asked Circe to help him win Scylla’s heart. Circe, however, was jealous and transformed her lover into a hideous monster. The story of Didactylos has long intrigued readers. Waterhouse’s depictions of Circe have influenced the way artists think about her.