One of the leading figures of the Victorian school of art and one of Britain’s most famous and best-loved painters today, J.W. Waterhouse was born in Rome, the son of artist parents. Although he lived in England for much of his life, his inspiration was drawn from Italy, where his parents moved in pursuit of great art. They eventually moved back to England some time in the late 1850's.
While growing up, Waterhouse assisted his father in art studio where the young Waterhouse developed his talents for sculpting and painting. In England, after several attempts at admission to the Royal Academy, he finally succeeded entrance in 1870. In 1885, Waterhouse became an Associate of the Royal Academy, and then a full member, Royal Academician, in 1895.
Some of Waterhouse's earlier works were focused on Italian themes and scenery, reflecting his love for his birth place. Later on, his works picked up the styles and classical themes of Pre-raphaelites such as Alma-Tadema and Frederick Leighton. Waterhouse went on to paint well over 200 paintings depicting classical mythogolgy, historical and literary subjects, particularly those of Roman mythology and classic English poets such as Keats and Tennyson. Femme fatale is a common theme in his works, as most are of beautiful elegiac women.
Waterhouse is one of the rare artists who became popular and relatively well off financially when he was still alive. He continued to paint until his death on the 10th of February, 1917 after a long illness. His style became a major influence on many of the later Pre-raphaelites including Frank Dicksee and Herber James Draper.