Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 98 x 67 cm
Location: Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
The Mermaid 1901 by John William Water-house is an elegant painting that takes its inspiration from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem of the same name. Waterhouse painted the composition in the year 1900 and it was well-received by the Royal Academy. The artist's connection to the Royal Academy remained strong for many decades. However, many critics say that the painting isn't what it seems.
The original oil sketch of the mermaid was signed by John William Waterhouse in 1892. The painting is now in the private collection of a New Yorker. The artist was obsessed with the motif for at least eight years before he eventually completed the large oil painting known as A Mermaid. The painting was Waterhouse's Diploma Work at the Royal Academy. Waterhouse was chronically late with his work and it must have taken him a long time to complete the painting. Regardless of the lateness of his work, the artist must have agonised over the composition and its enduring impact.
The Mermaid is the first of the many paintings of mermaids by John William Waterhouse. The work is based on sketches by Waterhouse and was inspired by The Siren. In the painting, two water nymphs seek out the floating head of the musician Orpheus. The relationship between these two figures is similar to that of the siren and the mariner. The woman appears lonely and alone, while the male figure is busy with her music.
Despite the feminine-oriented portrayals in Waterhouse's The Mermaid, the story's dark side often remains hidden. It is possible that the woman is a mermaid who is seeking love among mermen. This story explains why The Mermaid is not quite as innocent as many people believe. Although she looks like a beautiful girl, she may be a seductive trap for men.