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  • John William Waterhouse
    Apr 6, 1849 - Feb 10, 1917
  • Thisbe (The Listener) - John William Waterhouse was an English painter known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He worked several decades after the breakup of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which had seen its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century, leading him to have gained the moniker of "the modern Pre-Raphaelite". Borrowing stylistic influences not only from the earlier Pre-Raphaelites but also from his contemporaries, the Impressionists, his artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.
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Thisbe (The Listener)
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  • John William Waterhouse
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  • 1909
    Oil on canvas
    97 cm (38.19 in.) x 59 cm (23.23 in.)
    Private collection.

    Pyramus and Thisbe

    As told by the Ovid, This story is similar to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
    It takes place in ancient Babylon, where these two children grew up in a one-room house that was connected to the other. Over the years, they fell in love with each other, but could only talk through a hole in their wall because their parents refused them to see each other.

    Finally, Pyramus got fed up with his parents and so did Thisbe. They decided to run off one night and elope. Pyramus gave Thisbe the location of the place they would meet, and they agreed.

    Thisbe was the first to arrive at the first Mulberry bush outside of the city, but as she was waiting, a lioness walked by with her jaws covered in blood from a previous kill that day. Thisbe, frightened at her sight, ran non-stop to the nearest cave. Soon after, Pyramus walked by and saw a cloak, his love gift to her, covered in blood and torn to pieces with the footprints of the lioness left behind. He immediately thought that his only love had been killed by a hungry lion, and unsheathed his sword (her love gift to him), letting the cold, hard steel pierce his broken heart. Thisbe, bringing courage to her heart, ran back and found her only love lying on the ground next to the blood-covered Mulberry bush with his sword impaling his chest.

    She gasped in horror as she asked the still breathing Pyramus what happened. Barely able to stay awake, he told her what happened and she cried in sorrow. She took Pyramus' blood-stained sword and asked him to wait for her while she brought the blade into her own soft flesh. Thus they died together, in love and peace.

    This is why the berries on the Mulberry bush are red, instead of their original white, in commemoration of the two young lovers and their great sacrifice. Edwand Rivers

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Other paintings by John William Waterhouse:

A Tale from the Decameron
A Tale from the Decameron
Lamia and the Soldier
Lamia and the Soldier
Echo and Narcissus
Echo and Narcissus
A Mermaid
A Mermaid
John William WaterhouseJohn William Waterhouse was born in Rome to British parents on 6 April, 1849. Both of his parents were painters, and he lived there, absorbing the culture, the history and a love of art for the first six years of his life.
Waterhouse studied only under his father until he entered the Royal Academy in 1870. His first attempts to gain admission to the RA were rejected, but he finally did gain admittance in the school of sculpture under the sponsorship of Pickersgill. Pickersgill, a painter himself, encouraged young Waterhouse to return his attention to painting. Waterhouse was also greatly influenced by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, whose love of classical backgrounds and Roman history and legends greatly appealed to him.

Waterhouse is often associated with the Pre-Raphaelites because of his approach to painting and his love of myth and classical history. In truth though, Waterhouse is very much a classical painter. Waterhouse became ARA (Associate of the Royal Academy) in 1885, and RA (Full Academician) in 1895.

Waterhouse's distinctively romantic approach to the femme fatale (La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Hylas and the Nymphs) and the abandoned heroine (Ophelia, Meriamne, The Lady of Shallot) appealed greatly to the masses, but his academic and technical skill commanded the respect of his both his peers and critics. He was regarded so highly, in fact, by his peers that The Enchanted Garden was exhibited posthumously at the Academy even though it was never finished.

John Waterhouse died on 10 February, 1917 after a long illness. His influence can be seen in the work of Sir Frank Dicksee, Arthur Hacker, and Herbert James Draper.