Hylas and the Nymphs

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John William Waterhouse

1849-1917

English , Victorian Romanticist painter and draftsman

Hylas and the Nymphs

1896

98 x 163 cms | 38 1/2 x 64 ins
Oil on canvas

Manchester City Art Galleries

Manchester | United Kingdom

Hylas and the Nymphs originates from Greek myth. As the legend goes King Hylas was on an expedition when he decided to go ashore to get some water. When he reached into a spring to retrieve it he was carried off by water nymphs, never to be seen again. (encyclopedia.org) Waterhouse portrays King Hylas surrounded by seven nymphs. Enraptured with their beauty he is unaware of the fate about to befall him. This painting has a similar theme to La Belle Dam Sans Mercie. Both paintings depict the Femme Fatale, a common theme in Victorian literature and paintings, where the beauty of a woman causes a man to be off his guard, leading ultimately to his death. Beauty and the sense of immediate danger in both these pieces have grabbed viewers for the last century. Many of Waterhouse's most famous images share the same tie of impending doom. Images including The Lady of Shallot, La Belle Dam Sans Mercie, Ophelia, Mariamne Leaving the Judgment Seat of Herod, Saint Cecilia and Hylas and the Nymphs. "Often in Waterhouse we see a bitter-sweet tension between earthly beauty and impending doom."
-- Kara Ross