The two books in question were The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1880) and The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1885). We already know that both poets would influence the work of this artist, and so to find both in his possession, along with pencil drawings inside, is a wonderful discovery for British art historians. We have included a number of larger images of the inside pages from the Bonhams auction in order to give you a better understanding of the types of drawings that he left within these publications. One can see him taking the words of these two individuals and using them to inspire some off-the-cuff portrait sketches. It all gives the impression that these two books were extremely well read and used to their limits by an artist who was highly passionate about both literature and art. The drawings are all studies, of expressions of creativity, rather than being intended as presentable artworks.
We do know that these are the only poetry books owned by Waterhouse to still exist today, a fact that would significantly increase their value even before you start to browse the various sketches which laden the pages of both volumes. It is believed that he owned by books for a good number of years and that he continually returned to them from time to time over a long period of time. It therefore makes it much harder to connect any of these loose sketches to specific oil paintings as his studies of women could be linked to almost any artwork from his career. The drawings themselves are also expressive and vague, without any real connection to anything identifiable - any connection to an existing painting would also have added additional value to them. Another interesting aspect to the lives of these books is that they were later owned by John Physick who was the artist's great-nephew. He owned a number of the artist's sketchbooks too, and would donate them to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK.
The auction itself was titled Fine Books, Atlases and Manuscripts and was held in the London branch of Bonhams on the 16th of March, 2016. In recent years there has been a growing number of items from his career resurfacing at auctions such as this, most likely attempting to take advantage of the increased demand for British art from this period which has been the case for the last decade or so. Waterhouse was not directly a part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which has stunted his popularity to a certain degree, but the popularity of his most famous paintings, such as Lady of Shalott, has ensured that his oeuvre has been strong enough to stand out on its own. There were a large number of impressive artists around during the late 19th century who may not have fallen directly into the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but were nonetheless of particular significance and their stories continue to be told today within the wider sphere of British art from that period.