The masterpiece is only one of his great works, most of which depicts women drawn from ancient Greek mythology and the Arthurian legend. The Love Philtre, which was done in 1914, shows Medea, a Homer sorceress from the classical mythology and daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis. Medea used her magical skills to make a love potion for Jason, whom she was in love with. The portion would give him superhuman power in his quest for a golden fleece. In the painting, Medea is holding a cup and pouring some portion into it. As she does this, her face is intent, and her eyes focused on something or perhaps someone else. Waterhouse gives her a deeper definition of character on her eyes and countenance in an absolutely intriguing style.
It seems Waterhouse laboured to first and foremost convey the wistful charm and psychological intensity of his subject. Secondly, to depict his subject at the pivotal situation in personal drama as she pauses and considers all that is about to happen. From early 1890, Waterhouse focused mainly on subjects from mythology and created some of the most compelling and striking pictures that graced the British art scene in the 19th century. In his painting process, the artist used family and friends as live models to paint. The beauty of this was that it brought out a beautiful blend of the new and old, a great mix of old mythology and reality. This also made his works feel particularly English, in the way he used his models and the settings in which he placed them while still incorporating items of symbolism from Greek mythology and British poetry.
The sorceress subject in The Love Philtre was first painted by Waterhouse in 1886 in The Magic Circle. Later in 1891, she features in his first potion-themed picture depicting the beautiful sorceress holding a magical liquid in the Circle Offering the Cup to Ulysses. On the painting, inscribed and signed on the reverse, is The Love Philtre. JW Waterhouse, oil on canvas. The artist later died in 1917 of cancer, leaving some of his works on The Enchanted Garden unfinished. This piece is currently displayed in several major British art galleries. The Royal Academy of Art, in 2009, organized a great retrospective of his work.