A Mermaid is an oil on canvas painting by the English artist John William WaterhouseEnglish artist known primarily for his depictions of women set in scenes from myth, legend or poetry. He is the best known of that group of artists who from the 1880s revived the literary themes favoured by the Pre-Raphaelites. (1849–1917), completed in 1900. Waterhouse was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1885, and in return he presented A Mermaid to the academy; it was displayed at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1901.
Waterhouse is known primarily for his depictions of women set in scenes from myth, legend or poetry. A Mermaid may have been inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Mermaid (1830), which includes the lines:
Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Combing her hair
Mermaids were traditionally considered to be sirens who lured sailors to their deaths by singing to them. Beside the mermaid in this painting is a shell filled with pearls, each formed from the tears of a dead sailor.
- Waterhouse’s A Mermaid, video from the Royal Academy of Arts