J.W. In this, his interests are similar to the Pre-Raphaelites, although formally he did not belong to this group. The plot for the canvas "Odyssey and Sirens" is taken from classical ancient Greek mythology - the legend of the ten-year-old return of the cunning Odysseus to Ithaca.
The ship Odyssey sails past an island inhabited by sirens. In the artist’s imagination, they chose the appearance of half women, half birds. It is worth noting that in a number of paintings they are depicted as half-fish. The choice of one or another option depends on what kind of myth about their origin the artist chooses. In another picture, written a decade later (“The Siren”), the siren is devoid of wings but has a fish tail.
Sirens are singing. Everyone who hears their voice loses their memory and floats to the island. Where dies. Of all the people depicted in the picture, only Odysseus listens to the singing of sirens, therefore he is tied to the mast. He ordered the rest to wax his ears and paddle.
The picture shows that these half-birds can fly, can even fly onto a ship and sing their songs there. But they can do nothing more - neither unleash the Odyssey, nor open the ears to the rowers, nor interfere with the monotonous movement of the ship.
Ahead is a narrow passage between two huge cliffs, beyond which is a relatively calm sea, sirens will not fly further. But here you still have to go.
From most of the works on this plot, Waterhouse's painting is distinguished by its colorful and elaborate details. Odysseus is not just attached to the mast, he is listening and trying to free himself. Rowers do not just row, they see sirens and do not know what to expect from them.
Today it is one of the most famous works in the work of an English artist, used as an illustration for this myth. The uniqueness of Waterhouse is its ability to convey the current situation.
Pablo Picasso Crying Woman