Within this mixed-media drawing we find the young female model looking to our left with a strong focus and deep concentration. Her hair is long but disappears behind her shoulders and neck. She is undressed, as per the later painting, but most of her torso is left out of this drawing. The artist angles several lines in order to suggest at the rest of her form, but almost all of his attention here is given to her face and upper body. The model is entirely typical of this artist's entire career, with pale, slim young women being used in almost all examples of his portrait drawings and paintings. It is likely that this particularly lady would have appeared several more times as he liked to re-use his favourite muses. Her narrow face and soft features helped to produce an atmosphere of innocence and purity which persists throughout his work in this genre and perhaps helped him to build up such a strong following of support, both during his own lifetime but also today.
Hylas and the Nymphs, the final completed oil painting, was finished in 1896 and then exhibited at the Royal Academy a year later. That piece features a far more complex series of figures than we find in this single portrait, and so it is likely that he would have produced a number of other study drawings in which he would have focused on some of the other people included in the final piece. There would be seven different nymphs included in the end, who would all be covered by the water up to their waists, hence his decision not to include detail below that within these drawings. The story behind this artwork involves Hylas going to collect water at the spring of Dryope before being accosted by these water goddesses who were astounded by his beauty and ultimately held him hostage beneath the water for all eternity.
This delightful drawing was completed in charcoal, white chalk and pencil. It measures 42cm by 32cm and received the artist's authentication stamp in the bottom right corner of the page. It featured in the Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art auction in the London branch of Sotheby's in 2016, and was joined in the auction by another of the artist's works, namely Study for Circe Invidiosa. Many of the famous names related to Waterhouse were also featured here, some with drawings and others with oil paintings. There has been a growing interest in the Pre-Raphaelite movement in recent years and that was perhaps behind the decision to put on this event. This particular piece received a pre-auction estimate of £30,000 — 50,000 and by the time the hammer went down it would achieve a price of £37,500. Much of the information that we have available on this drawing came from the auctioneer's entry on the piece at the time of its sale back in 2016 as previously it had remained relatively inaccessible as part of a private collection.