Nymph Mania

J. W. Waterhouse’s Femme Fatales and Victorian Anxieties Toward Shifting Gender Dynamics

Figure 1: Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs

Thesis

J. W. Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs provides a valuable insight into late 19th century anxieties about shifting gender power dynamics. Through the painting’s depiction of the femme fatale, we are introduced to the Victorian “New Woman” as a nymph: a deceptively beautiful woman characterized by her long, unbound hair, who, beneath her demure exterior, is morally corrupt and wild and uses her sexuality to manipulate and overpower men. Re-examining the implicit ideology of this painting is necessary to understand how it mirrors more recent…

Chloe Calhoun

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store