This artwork features a young model posing as a mermaid, with long red hair which she plays with on the shore. The waves lap around her body in this charming and relaxing image and she holds a small brush in her right hand as she cares for her long hair. The portrait itself is completed to a high level of detail and one can imagine several drawings of her being produced first prior to this more complex version being attempted. She stares off into the distance, unaware of our presence. Waterhouse adored slim young women with pale complexions and his favourite models would appear across multiple artworks. We can therefore recognise many of his paintings even when seeing them for the first time, though it is important to remember that others from this period also worked in a relatively similar way. This painting, known simple as A Mermaid from 1892, is completed to a high level of detail but some areas are not quite up to the level of a completed Waterhouse painting that might come up for sale. It is therefore somewhere in the middle of his usual oil studies and the type of work that would appear the same year at the Royal Academy with the intention of being sold on.
Mermaids would appear several times within this artist's career, and the theme perfectly suited his approach to art. Women were to be seen as innocent and pure creatures, something to be celebrated and he also incorporated mythology into his paintings many times, making Mermaids an ideal basis for his work. He produced a signature style by remaining consistent in this approach, although it caused some criticism from those who considered this consistency to be a sign of a lack of ambition. Waterhouse continued down this path regardless and is today rightly regarded as one of the most important British artists from the late 19th and early 20th century, thanks to classic works such as the likes of Lady of Shalott which continues to be highly regarded all these years later.
Another artist who should appeal to fans of Waterhouse would be Frank Dicksee, someone who took in similar inspirations and also worked with impressive technical ability which had been fostered through years of academic teaching. He would gift us the likes of Hesperia, Paolo and Francesca and Beatrice and, like Waterhouse, was never considered a part of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood but nonetheless produced work which beared many similarities to it. He was not as exclusive in covering women only as Waterhouse tended to be, and therefore his oeuvre is a little more varied though he was never able to achieve quite the heights of fame as the former managed. That said, his best work would still retain impressive valuations were they ever to come up for sale at auction, with most currently being found within private collections which therefore also makes it harder for his reputation to gain exposure very often. A large recent publication has helped to draw attention to his work and the style of both these artists continues to receive great affection from the wider public.