[click to enlarge pictures]
Rounding off our saucy survey of Victorian and Edwardian bathing beauties, we come at last to the genuine Naiads: classical spirits of freshwater wells, springs, brooks and pools. The most famous depiction has to be Hylas and the Nymphs above, which I was lucky enough to see for real at a Waterhouse retrospective in 2009.
Hylas was a famously beautiful youth picked by Hercules as his armour-bearer and lover. They joined the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece, but Hylas vanished when they stopped off for fresh water - he had been siezed by the nymph of the stream and pulled in. Hercules, distraught, quit the quest in order to search in vain for his friend.
Here's another painting of the same theme:
No, you're not imagining things: all Waterhouse's nymphs do have the same face. He seems to have had very clear ideas about the facial archetype he wanted throughout his career, and you can read more about his models here.
Klimt may have shared dates with traditional Victorian artists, but he ploughed his own unique symbolist furrow and no one can accuse his depictions of women of being bland! Naiads as disembodied heads floating in the murky depths ... eek! Wonderful!
Collier's picture isn't bland either. I love the dark and distinctly unappealing water, and her reflection in it. Also her expression, which makes me think she's not musing upon raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens - unless she's planning to drown the latter.
Here are some more of Rackham's Rhinemaidens:
The next picture is barely more than an excuse for painting some awesome boobies:
But it's so attractive I think I'll overlook the lack of context.
But this one has more cheesecake than a whole branch of the Cheesecake Factory. Like Draper, Bouguereau's output varied wildly, from the dramatic to the saccharine. Personally I don't like the Nymphaeum picture above. But I think this one is great:
Look at those skin-tones! And I think that satyr is in serious trouble, despite their playful faces, given how his hooves are slipping on the muddy bank...