The drawing in front of us here features a young woman peering off to the right hand side, in a side profile. The artist keeps it simple here, without any greater shadowing or multi-layered content. The pencil used does not have quite the same impact as his work with chalk, but the intention here is to simply try out an idea and see how it works before he begins on the main oil painting. Notice how her left arm is almost of any pencil strokes, as it is clear that his interest here is in her right arm and elbow, and how it lays alongside her head. Her facial features are entirely in keeping with this artist's preference for tall, slim models that decorate the majority of his career and help to make many of his paintings instantly recognisable as his own. Whilst this was a running theme within the Pre-Raphaelite movement, something that he existed on the fringes for most of his career, most of the other members would also try out other types of models too.
The item received a pre-sale valuation of £20,000-30,000 which is fairly high for a drawing by this artist but entirely accurate as it turned out. The artwork was completed entirely in pencil, when normally Waterhouse would use chalk instead. It is 23cm by 20cm, making it relatively small which would also have had an impact on its value. Many of the artist's drawings were sold off shortly after his death and occasionally resurface in British auctions every now and again. The artist's paintings are now worth in the millions of pounds, but less focus has been given to his drawings sadly. His sketchbooks were broken up, with artworks then dispersed all over the place which has made it very difficult to accurately collate them all together within a single publication. Many of these sketches were related to later paintings, and so hold a particular importance when studying the key moments in his career.
This item was sold at an event titled Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art which was held in the London branch of Sotheby's in late 2017. These art movements retain a strong following within the UK, where most of the bidders would have been based, but there is also considerable interest in British art across the pond in the US, with several galleries there devoted to it. Waterhouse perhaps suffers from not being an official member of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and so his work has had to promote his career on its own, to a certain degree. Thankfully, he produced several epic, breathtaking paintings which provide a spearhead to his oeuvre which can help to grab people's attention, before they then look deeper into some of the other things that he created. He was certainly a talent in both drawing and painting, with the former providing a strong basis for the latter.