(Click on picture to view the painting full screen)
Tristan (as I prefer the name) and Isolde are among my favorite subjects for poetry. Isolde appears to be staring over Tristan’s shoulder, as if the full consequences of their fatal draught are settling upon her.
Boccaccios’s Decameron is set in a series of country retreats, where seven maidens and three youths, who have fled the Plague of 1348 Florence, tell each other tales as a form of mental and emotional escape. Waterhouse might well have wished for a similar idyll in the midst of the first World War, whichever destroyed the romantic preoccupations of Tennyson’s Britain. One can hear the echo of that (comparative) Eden in the words of Britains poets who knew both worlds, A.E. Housman, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen.
An unfinished painting by Waterhouse in the last year of his life. It portrays the fifth tale on the last day of the Decameron. A garden that blooms in January is certainly a hopeful theme of rebirth in the grimmest year of WWI.