Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 38 x 64 in
Location: Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK
The nymphs, who inhabited the water, were largely invisible to the viewer. The nymphs are plump, girlish creatures with fair skin and wet hair, and their faces are mostly hidden behind the mask of Hylas. They have distinct facial expressions that differ from Hylas'. Waterhouse's painting of Hylas and the Nymphs is an excellent example of his skill at balancing colour and texture.
The painting depicts the famous myth of Hylas, who is surrounded by silver-voiced nymphs. The story is told in Greek mythology, and the Naiads are the nymphs of the river. Hylas was a youth who possessed unmatched beauty and was adorned with curls. Heracles took her as his own and trained her to become a warrior, but he kept her as his companion and lover.
A recent debate prompted the Manchester Art Gallery to temporarily remove Hylas and the Nymphs from its show. The curator of the gallery said that this painting is controversial and uses the female body passively to decorate the canvas. The exhibition was subsequently canceled, but the painting has been returned to its normal position in the gallery. This is a fascinating piece of history, and a fascinating conversation.
The artist's vision evoked feelings of fear and loss. He felt as if he were A Hamadryad or a Naiad, and he had difficulty describing the subject in words. The subject-less paintings never sold during Waterhouse's lifetime, but later in his career, Waterhouse realized that the future of his art relied on a familiar narrative. That's how he ended up selling Ophelia (1894) to George McCulloch, a wealthy Australian miner who had retired to London in 1892.