Mythology on Canvas (Part 2)

The first paintings I would like to feature in this series are by John William Waterhouse.

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse
A Naiad by John William Waterhouse

The first is simply titled A Naiad and was completed in 1893. It is only if one is familiar with what a Naiad is that the composition of this painting takes on its full power. Naiads were typically female water spirits that were alternately portrayed as beneficent or threatening, often jealous of their male human husbands/lovers. What I like about this particular painting (aside from its realism) is that it leaves so much to the imagination of the viewer. What is the back story? What is going to happen next? This kind of stimulation can be very healthy, and this is largely dependent on the quality of thinking in the individual (i. e. you or me) doing the interpretation. Also, the rippled surface of the water in the background provides a subtle effect to this painting.

Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse
Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse

The second is Hylas and the Nymphs from 1896. The tension in this offering is derived from the background story, the body postures of the various subjects, and the expressions on the faces of the Naiads themselves. Depending on the account being considered, Hylas was the son or companion or lover of the demigod, Hercules. One account describes him as being abducted by water nymphs (Naiads). In light of this information, the picture is intriguingly painted and leaves one with the impression that whatever is about to happen does not end well. I find it ironic and sadly amusing that this is so often the case with human infatuation in general.

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