John William Waterhouse (6 April 1849 — 10 February 1917)
Echo and Narcissus
Oil on canvas, 1903
109.2 cm × 189.2 cm (43.0 in × 74.5 in)
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Echo and Narcissus is a painting dating 1903 by John William Waterhouse. It illustrates the poem Echo and Narcissus Ovid's Metamorphoses.
John William Waterhouse (1847–1917) was an English painter who, because of his style and themes, has been classified as a Pre-Raphaelite, but is more accurately described as a Neo-Classical painter. He painted over 200 works, mainly in the genres of classical mythology, and of historical or literary subjects. One of his common themes is the femme fatale, the woman who ensnares a man.
Echo and Narcissus is in the genre of classical mythology. Roman poet Ovid as part of his monumental work Metamorphoses. It combines two ancient legends: Echo, the mountain-nymph, and Narcissus, a hunter who falls in love with his own reflection. This was the first time that the two legends had been told together.
The story is told in Book III of the Metamorphoses, and tells the story of a "talkative nymph" who "yet a chatterbox, had no other use of speech than she has now, that she could repeat only the last words out of many." She falls in love with Narcissus, whom she catches sight of when he is "chasing frightened deer into his nets." Eventually, after "burning with a closer flame," Echo's presence is revealed to Narcissus, who, after a comic, yet tragic scene, rejects her love. Echo wastes away, until she "remains a voice" and "is heard by all." This is the explanation of the aural effect which was named after her.
Then, Narcissus "tired both his enthusiasm for hunting and the heat" rests by a spring, and whilst drinking, "a new thirst grows inside him" and he is "captivated by the image of the beauty he has seen" and falls deeply in love with "all the things for which he himself is admired." He then wastes away with love for himself, echoing the manner in which Echo did earlier on. A while later his body is gone, and in its place is a narcissus flower that came upon his actions.
The painting is in oil on canvas and measures 109.2 centimetres (43 in) by 189.2 centimetres (74 in). It forms part of the Victorian collection in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, having been purchased by the museum in 1903.