John William Waterhouse was an eminent British painter of poetry, myth and legend. He was from an artistic family and trained at the Royal Academy Schools in London. Waterhouse created over 200 paintings in his lifetime. He illustrated his highly individual synthesis of French and English styles. He explores intense and peculiar themes in most of his work, which are attributes of Pre-Raphaelitism presented in a more continental idiom of painterly naturalism. In all his paintings, Waterhouse used various artistic techniques to create beauty and realism in his works. In Dante and Matilda, he used oil on canvas mounted on wood, making the artwork look realistic and natural. Also, Waterhouse used symbolism, vivid colour schemes, vivid light and natural setting in portraying the theme in this masterpiece.
Dante and Matilda by Waterhouse is an unfinished painting that reflects his interest in Pre-Raphaelitism. It showcases the spiritualized love celebrated by the Italian poet Dante. This painting portrays the moment in Il Purgatorio, canto 28, when Dante meets Matilda. Unlike his beloved wife Beatrice, who represents a contemplative life, Matilda expresses an active life. In the painting, the two protagonists are set apart by a symbolic river. Dante, the poet, is kneeling on the right side where the trees are barren and nature is bleak. While on the left side, where Matilda is, the trees are flowering. The contrast suggests the state of being that Dante will eventually attain, from the sinful state to the spiritual purity. Until today, his work is highly discernible from other artists of the era.
John William Waterhouse, the romantic artist, had a lot of passion for natural settings and strong, beautiful women. He took inspiration from the great artists who came before him, mainly from classical and Pre-Raphaelite schools. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederic Lord Leighton were the two foremost artists of the century who greatly inspired him into his early works. Later Pre-Raphaelite movement, particularly Millais and Rossetti, influenced him into Pre-Raphaelitism. Waterhouse was among the first classical artists of the 19th century and highly influenced the young artists of the era. His use of classical composition, Raphaelite themes, and vivid colour schemes were widespread in his generation. His skills as an artist made him a highly desirable artist-teacher. John William Waterhouse was a romantic and passionate artist who created more than 200 high-quality paintings during his lifetime. Dante and Matilda are among his many fine artworks. In this painting, he used vivid colour schemes, beautiful lighting and natural settings to bring out the theme.