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John William Waterhouse was born in Rome, where his parents, both painters, lived for some years. On coming to England, Waterhouse studied first at his father's studio, then at the Royal Academy Schools from 1870. His early classical paintings were much influenced by Laurens Alma Tadema, and he also produced lighter pictures of Italian life.

Subsequently he began to depict more poetical subjects, especially from Tennyson, and later, Homer. While very much a classical painter, Waterhouse has been often classed as a Pre-Raphaelite, because of his dedication to beautiful girls in the Pre-Raphaelite style, fondness for the idea of the femme fatale, and realism.

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