Date: circa 1900
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 81 x 53 cm
The Siren circa 1900 by John William Waterhouse is an attractive seascape that was probably commissioned by the art dealer Thomas Agnew. It was sold for PS450 on 1 February 1901 and was bought by industrial engineer James Gresham. Gresham, an amateur artist, founded the firm Gresham & Graven, which made brake equipment for railway vehicles. In the early part of the century, Gresham was injured in Newark when his carriage overturned. In the course of treatment for his injury, Gresham had his leg amputated above the knee.
The siren was originally represented as birds with large heads, and they were renowned for their beautiful voices. They were also often depicted holding a lyre or playing a harp, a string instrument from ancient Greece. The siren, with her singing voice, was a spectral figure that captured the imagination of many artists, and the earliest depictions of this mysterious woman were based on Greek myths.
The Siren is considered a classic seascape by art lovers and is an excellent example of Victorian painting. Waterhouse's paintings usually feature beautiful women, and the artist chose models with pale skin, red hair, and wistful expressions. His paintings are considered among the best-known of Victorian seascapes. The original painting was sold by Manchester Art Gallery, but later, the art gallery stopped selling reproductions.