Sightings of that most alluring of creatures – the mermaid – can be made in our Southern seas at times. Mermaids were seen last weekend sitting as supervisors of mobile schools in the Melbourne Aquarium. Others have visited more briefly. Jean Paul Gaultier’s Mermaids appeared in shell encrusted bodices at the NGV earlier this year and John William Waterhouse’s Mermaid visited the deep inland of the Bendigo Art Gallery not so long ago.
Inspired by the NGV’s current exhibition of the Pre-Raphaelite works in their collection, Medieval Moderns, I made a head study of Waterhouse’s romanticised image of ‘A Mermaid’. Although grouped with the Pre-Raphaelites, Waterhouse was a mere babe in Rome at the time of the formation of the Brotherhood so he is known more properly as a ‘modern Pre-Raphaelite’ insofar as he continued the painting form of classical and mythological tales into the late Victorian period. (I don’t suppose you can easily say he was a ‘Post-Pre-Raphaelite…)