One of Waterhouse's best known subjects is The Lady of Shalott, a study of Elaine of Astolat as depicted in the 1832 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who dies of a mysterious curse after looking directly at the beautiful Lancelot. He actually painted three different versions of this character, in 1888, 1894, and 1916. Another of Waterhouse's favorite subjects was Ophelia; the most familiar of his paintings of Ophelia depicts her just before her death, putting flowers in her hair as she sits on a tree branch leaning over a lake. Like The Lady of Shalott and other Waterhouse paintings, it deals with a woman dying in or near water. He may also have been inspired by paintings of Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. He submitted his 1888 Ophelia painting in order to receive his diploma from the Royal Academy. (He had originally wanted to submit a painting titled A Mermaid, but it was not completed in time. ) After this, the painting was lost until the 20th century. It is now displayed in the collection of Lord Lloyd-Webber. Waterhouse would paint Ophelia again in 1894 and 1909 or 1910, and he planned another painting in the series, called Ophelia in the Churchyard.
John William Waterhouse RA (6 April 1849 – 10 February 1917) was an English painter known for working first in the Academic style and for then embracing the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 's style and subject matter. His artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend .