22 Jul 2012

Flora and the Zephyrs

  I came across this intriguing painting the other day and wondered what the story was behind it.

Flora and the Zephyrs - John William Waterhouse
Flora and the Zephyrs
John  William Waterhouse


charcoal study

John William Waterhouse's  Flora and the Zephyrs takes its subject from Ovid's Fasti, which is a verse chronicle of the Roman calendar, and which incorporates the mythologies and historical legends of Rome where they can he associated with specific times of the year. Waterhouse's painting shows the moment when Zephyr first set eyes upon and fell in love with Flora, as she gathered flowers in the fields with her maidens and children.  He flies down to her, accompanied by his winged companions, and captures her by casting a garland of white flowers around her.
Flora and the Zephyrs was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898 with Ariadne (private collection),

John William Waterhouse: Ariadne - 1898
Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete
  which showed the sleeping figure outstretched at the moment of her abandonment by Theseus. Two years later Waterhouse showed the Awakening of Adonis,

 where again the main protagonist seems hardly aware of the unfolding drama.  Waterhouse's paintings after the turn of the century were to become blander and more oblique in their storytelling, and seldom again did he achieve the psychological tension and sense of frenzied excitement of Flora and the Zephyrs.

John William Waterhouse
was an English painter known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite style.
He worked for several decades after the break-up of the Brotherhood, borrowing
stylistic influences not only from the earlier 'Pre-Raphs' but also from his
contemporaries the Impressionists - his artworks were known for their
depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology
and Arthurian legend.

Probably Waterhouse's most famous work
The Lady of Shallot
Waterhouse had been suffering from cancer for some time and in 1916 while he continued to work on The Enchanted Garden
The Enchanted Garden
he was approaching the end of his journey.  A beautiful planter decorated with grapevines, deer and birds (of a type that may be found in an enchanted garden) now rests upon the slab that covers the Waterhouse gravesite at Kensal Green Cemetery.
"The painting makes a fitting epitaph - for what is the work of Waterhouse - if not an enchanted garden"!.
John William Waterhouse died on 10 February 1917 before the painting was finished.

His art continues to bring joy and inspiration to many.
I have used two of his paintings to illustrate  a post on The Scented Garden - Roses here on my other blog Ramblings from Rosebank


  1. Lady of Shallot one of my favourite paintings lovely work by a supreme artist

    1. They are probably thought of as old-fashioned now but I find them very moving.

  2. I've loved the pre-Raphaelite's since my days at Uni. I had a poster of 'The Boer War' on my classroom wall for years.... Hmmm, I wonder what happened to it? Jx

    1. I have never heard of this painting so just Googled it - a strange title I thought not very relevant to what I was looking at - so I found an article about it.

      Now it makes sense. Not a picture of the Boer War - but a woman left behind or in mourning. Not your typical pre-raphaelite painting - but beautiful if not rather sad.

  3. Not to my taste but an interesting post. Flighty xx

    1. I can understand that - but you have to admit the paintings are very skilful.

    2. I generally have much admiration for the skills of artists. Flighty xx

  4. What beautiful paintings, Elaine. The first one takes the take for me, but I love them all. :-)

    1. There is so much to look at in the painting - and it is good to know the story behind it.

  5. Lovely post! We were wandering around the Pre-Raphaelite paintings at the Birmingham Museum recently. They certainly bring out some strong emotions in people, some of them I like very much some I don't. Two of my favourites are 'The Last of England' and 'Work' by Ford Madox Brown. Some of the paintings like 'The Lady of Shallot' remind me of childhood book illustrations of poems, fables and fairy tales. I do enjoy reading about the lives of the artists and how they created their paintings and why:)

    1. Fascinating stuff - I don't recognise the two you mentioned so I'll look them up - always learning.


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