The Mystic Wood was created in Waterhouse's typical style of painting in layers. He would not use a prepared drawing to guide him but would paint directly on the canvas and then use thinner paint to guide his strokes. As a result, the painting looks realistic even in its unfinished state. This oil on canvas creation is different from his earlier and typical work that features an obvious inspiration and depiction of Greek mythology and literary narratives. The painting is in the woods featuring two young women and a small boy hiding behind one of them. There is an older woman with her hand on the boy's shoulder, and all four characters' attention is on a white stag. The white stag is jumping over branches to get away from the three women and the hiding boy.

The similarity with his earlier works is the feature of female characters. The woods are dark, and there is very little light that pierces through the thick canopy created by the trees. This creates a gloomy feel. The only hint of light is a reflection of a stream in the background. Despite the gloominess of the woods, there is a use of vivid colours in the women's clothes. Waterhouse uses contrasting hues and rich textures achieved by painting in layers. This is seen in the contrast of the rich undergrowth contrasting with the gloom of the canopy of the trees.

Waterhouse's painting method creates realistic artwork by using the style of painting landscapes and other outdoor scenes popularized by Jules Bastien-Lepage, a French painter, and Stanhope Forbes, who was part of the Newlyn School in Cornwall. This painting style resulted in more realistic paintings because of the lack of polish that characterized those of Victorian painters like Alma-Tadema and Frederick Leighton. The Victorian painters' artwork was polished and bore no imperfections. The artist's artwork was heavily influenced by mythical tales and ancient folklore. The oil on canvas woods are thought to depict the dark and gloom of an unknown realm, while the white stag representing hope of an afterlife. The small boy represents human curiosity. As the artist's final work, this painting is thought to have dealt with his musings of the afterlife as he came to the end of his life. The Mystic Wood is displayed in the Queensland Art Gallery located in Brisbane, Australia.

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The Mystic Wood in Detail John William Waterhouse