Culture in your pocket: Myth and Romance, The Art of JW Waterhouse

Artworks are usually found lining the walls of  high end galleries in Italy, France and New York, and most of the classics would send a potential patron back by thousands of dollars. As I was browsing a secondhand bookstore yesterday, I managed to find a rare gem amid the stacks of old books yet to be set on the shelves.

My discovery was a small  paperback, only 120 x 100  mm, or 4 3/4 x 4 inches in size, small enough to fit in a small purse and light enough to carry in one’s pocket. The book cover immediately drew my attention as it featured a very detailed piece of artwork featuring nymphs. If that wasn’t enough, when I flipped through the pages, they were printed in full color in glossy bookpaper which adds to the sophistication and stylishness of the small volume. I checked the price and for less than P150, I was walking out of store, grinning from ear to ear with my purchase.

The book was entitled Myth and Romance: The Art of JW Waterhouse, which featured paintings done by Italian artist John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) based on literary classics and mythology from where he drew inspiration. Among his subjects were Lady Rosamund, a mistress of Henry  II, Jason and Medea, Circe, Penelope, Adonis, and the Lady of Shallot.

my favorite of his works, Miranda, The Tempest, done in 1916

Aside from the excellent artwork, which portrayed significant scenes in the stories of the characters, the book also inserted passages of literary pieces from William Shakespeare, Tennyson, Edmund Spenser, John Keats and other renowned poets. Towards the end, there are also several pages that gives an explanation about the subjects and their stories, which makes the pocketbook not only a visual treat but also an educational one. I particularly appreciated Waterhouse’s depiction of mythological characters and thought they were brilliant.

Tennyson's The Lady of Shallot by JW Waterhouse

So, I guess whoever said that culture was reserved for the wealthy was wrong after all, because culture can come in small packages and less expensively, if one only knew how to look for it. 🙂