We find here a beautiful female model staring blankly into the distance, leaving us to ponder as to what is distracting her attention so intently. The composition is a shoulder-length portrait with some quick brushwork in the background that forms some sort of outdoor setting. The artist is careful not to include too much detail of what is behind this woman so that she retains most of our focus. The artist perfected his craft over many decades and left behind a great variety of portrait paintings by the time that his career came to a close. Waterhouse worked tirelessly on study drawings using pencil, chalk and charcoal in order to prepare for his work in oils as this format is not well suited to amendments once the initial layout has been completed.
It was in the latter half of this artist's career that he started to make use of the green and brown tones found within the British landscape, as prior to that he had been working with brighter palettes to construct scenes of ancient Greece and Rome. This was a major switch in his style and helped him to leave behind two very clear bodies of work. Even discussing his career all these years later, one will inevitably discuss his work from that perspective and handle each style separately. He would have one very clear link between the two, though, and that was his love for female portraiture which persists throughout his career and this change in content allowed him to vary elements such as the background composition, as well as the fashion of the models themselves.
Many artists have taken on the genre of portraiture but in a variety of different ways. Someone who provided ground-breaking alternatives in the early 20th century was French painter, Henri Matisse. He would gift us the likes of Dance, Woman in a Purple Coat and Le Bonheur de Vivre and his approach as clearly different to that of JW Waterhouse, who himself worked on the fringes of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the UK. Matisse was able to work in different ways and altered his approach at different points of his career. He is today considered one of the most important European artists in history and left behind a great legacy which he continued to add to right up until his death. Matisse was also involved in other mediums such as sculpture and cut out designs, underlining his innovative, creative mind.