He was known for his iconic artist work of the Arthurian legend and scenes of Greek mythology. He also did several paintings of Roman history. The Cleopatra is one of the most popular paintings of John William Waterhouse. Constantly a woman of mystery in his imagination, people have never completely agreed on whether Cleopatra was more alluring due to her brilliance or beauty. In this painting, Waterhouse has managed to intertwine these two traits completely. He depicts a woman of great power and intensity, and her sexuality and intelligence are both on display in this art. Cleopatra reclines among her elegance and fineries, revealing very little skin but still displaying her body seductively. The most striking aspect of this painting is Cleopatra's eyes. The energy that exudes from her expression is magnificent: she looks very aggressive yet so charming and captivating.
It is almost impossible to look away from her eyes and face. For sure, Waterhouse's handling of this painting was quite effective and diverse. He delicately rendered her hair and carefully shaded her skin but used broad, rough strokes on the belt and wall: creating an outstanding texture of the gold. Another look at the painting reveals duality in Cleopatra's pose — one hand rests on the nearby lion statue while the other bends at her waist. This creates an agitated and impatient look, lending a new perspective to her expression. As much as Cleopatra's attributes and legacy are hard to discern, she is portrayed as a woman of great authority and force. This painting creates an entirely new perspective about Cleopatra in a manner no other painting has.
There are several paintings that John William Waterhouse did during his time. Here are some of them:
- Undine(1872): This is a painting completed by John William Waterhouse in 1872. It is a painting of Undines that lived hundreds of years ago. They are invariably depicted as being female, which is an ancient idea. Undines are usually found in waterfalls and forest pools. They have a beautiful singing voice that can often be heard over the sound of water.
- The Unwelcome Companion: A Street Scene in Cairo (1873): This is one of the earliest paintings by John William Waterhouse. It was exhibited at the gallery of SBA ( Society of British Artists) in 2016.
- The Favourites of Emperor Honorius (1883): This is a painting by John William Waterhouse that depicts Honorius feeding birds on a rug. The dark colors of the rug and his clothes portray and define a space.