John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the NymphsOil on canvas, 1896, 132,1 × 197,5 cm, Art Gallery in Manchester



Description and interpretation of the famous painting "Hylas and the Nymphs" by John William Waterhouse!

John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs

A man bends over to the girls in the water, who all look at him curiously and with big eyes. Their bodies are covered to the breasts. The viewer can still see the silhouette of some bodies through the surface of the water. They seem to flow in from all sides to seduce the young man: from the left a girl rushes over; at the edges of the picture they wade into the picture; in front a repoussoir figure leads into the action. The water is covered with water lilies, reeds protrude into the painting ground at the edges of the paintings.

Waterhouse depicts the story of Hylas and the nymphs. This ancient mythological story tells that Hylas accompanied Hercules on his journey with the Argonauts. As he searched for water, he found a spring in which the naiads, the nymphs of rivers and lakes, danced. Hylas was young and beautiful, so one of the nymphs was so enchanted by his grace that she grabbed him when he wanted to fill his jug with water and pulled him down by his neck.

Waterhouse's painting has an unmissable erotic appeal. The transparent and porcelain-like beauty of its nymphs is enhanced by their number and similarity. With fine facial features, long brown hair, red lips and shiny breasts, the painter draws the seducers, who correspond to the special and recurring ideal of beauty'Waterhouse'. They all fixate the young man with a longing look. Some play with their hair. But not only the beauty is supposed to seduce Hylas - on closer inspection one discovers that the nymph under his head also holds some pearls in both hands, which it offers him. Hylas is about to fill his jug, but he pauses in motion because he too is blinded by the beauty of the nymphs. A moment of doom.

© the artinspector / alexandra tuschka