OIL PAINTING: Diogenes, 1882
In Waterhouse's painting, Diogenes, the ancient ascetic philosopher who lived in a tub and carried a lantern, looking for an honest man, provides a striking contrast to the attractive young women and their perfectly blooming flowers. According to Angus Trumble, this painting closes the stage in his career when "the meticulous archaeological techniques of Lawrence Alma-Tadema
" influenced the artist. "The treatment of marble in Diogenes, and the faithful reconstruction of the Doric temple architecture in the background (Diogenes' tub was according to tradition borrowed from the Temple of the Mother of the Gods), even the peculiarly Japanese-looking sun-shades, as well as numerous details of costume, were all executed with great care. Moreover, the spatial arrangements, a sunken ledge below street-level beside a flight of steps, as well as the curiosity of the young women, who lean forward to catch a glimpse of the cranky old man, serve to underline his gloomy rejection of the world the better to serve some immediate practical good.
Waterhouse relied on flights of steps to drive a number of his more ambitious compositions in the 1880s, most notably St Eulalia 1885 (London, Tate Britain, Millbank), Mariamne, 1887 (New York, Forbes Magazine Collection) and A flower market, old Rome (Private collection). . . . Henceforth, however, Waterhouse's interest centred more and more on gardens and foliage and figures seated on the ground, among plants and flowers" .