In the Roman myth, Echo fell in love with the beautiful Narcissus. But Narcissus, on seeing his own reflection in a fountain, became infatuated with it and consequently despised Echo. She then pined away until only her voice remained. Waterhouse has marvellously represented the self-absorption of Narcissus as he sprawls on the ground looking downwards and totally oblivious of the very desirable Echo separated from him by the river. Her cramped pose demonstrates the frustration of unrequited love - a very common theme in Victorian art and a favourite theme for the artist. The landscape background has a sinister atmosphere appropriate to the subject and a decorative quality with strong, distinct shapes.


  • Title: Echo and Narcissus
  • Creator: John William Waterhouse
  • Creator Lifespan: 1849/1917
  • Creator Nationality: British
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: London, England
  • Creator Birth Place: Rome, Italy
  • Date Created: 1903
  • tag / style: Romanticism; Classicism; Pre-Raphaelite; mythological; Roman; Echo; Narcissus; John William Waterhouse; reflection
  • Physical Dimensions: w1892 x h1092 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Waterhouse was a painter of poetical, imaginative subjects, often with a female figure in the role of an enchantress. Born in Rome in 1849, the artist was frequently to return to the city throughout his career and was heavily influenced by his experiences there. Waterhouse's artistic skills were nurtured in his father's studio, before he went on to study at London’s Royal Academy Schools. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1874 to 1917, was elected an Associate in 1885 and a Royal Academician in 1895. Liverpool was also one of Waterhouse's main exhibition centres and his work was regularly exhibited in the Walker Art Gallery from 1879 until the year before his death. Often labelled a Pre-Raphaelite, Waterhouse should perhaps be regarded more as a Romantic Classicist, as his work is often more classical and Italian than medieval and gothic. He revived the literary themes that the Pre-Raphaelites favoured. His narrative ability was very strong and his works mainly illustrate scenes from his own interpretations of history, legend and poetry. Waterhouse was hugely popular in the 19th century and this continues to the present day.
  • Additional artwork information: The painting was exhibited in London’s Royal Academy in 1903. In a feature in The Art Journal that year, it was said that ‘Echo and Narcissus’ was ‘one of the best examples of imaginative art which can be found in the Academy.’To learn more about this painting, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/20c/waterhouse.aspx To learn more about the Walker Art Gallery’s 20th-century paintings, of which this is one of the earliest examples, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/20c/
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Purchased in 1903

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps