Undine is a category of elemental beings associated with water. The beings stem from the alchemical writings of Paracelsus. Alchemists considered water to be the most feminine of all the elements because of its simultaneous yielding and consumption. Its ability to give and grow life also played a significant role in this thought. Undine was not only a water spirit. The stories of Undine describe as a spirit in the quest for an immortal soul. Her story is also one of love, passion, and betrayal. Writers have over the years developed the Undine into a water nymph. Her story has inspired hundreds of artists from different parts of the world. Several tales and illustrations of the tale of Undine have also been created. John William Waterhouse's Undine is one of the many illustrations portraying one of the most powerful scenes from the story.
In John William Waterhouse's illustration of Undine, he features the female character dressed in a white dress. She has long blonde hair flowing to the back of her knees. In the painting, Undine’s hair and form repeat the flume behind her. Undine appears to be standing on the edge of a well with water overflowing from it. this is proof that the character is Undine because tales of Undine suggest that she is usually found in forest pools, waterfalls, and water bodies. A stream of water flows from the sky into the well. The water only drops in one position, where Undine is standing, and the rest of the painting is dry. This symbolizes ther position as the water element. Besides her is a tree. It also represents her characteristic as a giver of life.
Her form and expression show her moving as though she is listening to a tune. Undine is believed to have a beautiful voice that could be heard over the sound of water. The rest of the background features buildings drawn in dull colors. It is worth noting that Undine was the first of the many female figures painted by John William Waterhouse. John went on to create several other paintings featuring characters from fairytales and Greek mythology. John William Waterhouse used Undine as an expression of several issues that he considered to be critical. He thought of supernatural characters to point to the spirit that can not be seen to abstract ideas like his paintings.