The Soul of the Rose (My Sweet Rose): Explanation of John’s Romantic Art

The Soul of the Rose (My Sweet Rose): Explanation of John’s Romantic Art

Finding love, sensuality, affection, and misery in one painting has made me fall for it.

Yes, I am in love!

I am in love with the beauty that the painting offers, with the vivid yet graceful colors, and with the amount of love the woman has for the roses.

You must be wondering: Does a painting have the ability to make a human feel all of the above?

My friend, you haven’t witnessed the beauty of art till now through John’s The Soul of the Rose.

I must say that the painting has the power to make you fall within seconds.

An epitome of romance and beauty!

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With this thought, we are going to analyze “The Soul of the Rose,” an artwork created by one of the finest artists, John William Waterhouse.

Now it’s time to make my readers fall in love!

Behind the Art: Painting Inspired by Poems?

The Soul of the Rose painting by John William Waterhouse
Image: wikimedia
ArtistJohn William Waterhouse
GenreLiterary Painting
MediumOil on Canvas
PeriodRomanticism/Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Dimensions88.3cm x 59.1cm
Estimated WorthMore than $4 million
LocationPrivate Collection

Unlike other works of Waterhouse, The Soul of the Rose is not a scene taken from any ancient love tale or famous figure from mythology.

The painting is a portrayal, or, you can say, a keen observation, of a woman in a garden.

Romanticizing paintings through poems sounds beautiful, right?

Have you ever read a poem that made you live within it?

A poem that inspired you to become a poet, a writer, or a painter?

William was highly inspired by the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The famous piece by Alfred, “Come into the Garden, Maud,” is the main inspiration behind “The Soul of the Rose.”

Let’s hear what the poem was all about.

Explaining Plot of the Poem

The “narrator” falls in love with a woman named “Maud.”

Note: Let’s call the narrator by the name of the poet, Alfred.

Now Alfred’s father commits suicide because of his business partner, who turns out to be none other than Maud’s father.

Maud’s brother also threatened the two lovers and Alfred killed him in a fight.

Alfred invites Maud to meet him in the garden, where we discover the deep affection he holds for her and the rose.

He is waiting for her lover, and the wait is never over!

Now that you know the storyline of the poem, what are your thoughts?

Don’t you think that the poem leaves a sense of passion, love, deep longing, and loss?

According to some scholars, the poem gives out a feeling of “hope.”

The hope that his lover will surely come to meet him; the hope that the narrator holds in his heart.

If you read the poem, the sixth stanza speaks about how the rose is a symbol of his affection.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? 

Already in love? Wait, as the story has just begun!

Overall View on the Painting of Rose

After hearing the affectionate yet melancholic tale of the poem by Alfred, I’m going to give an overview of the subjects and the themes the painting illuminates.

Let me make you fall more in love with its heavenly details!

Subject analysis of The Soul of the Rose painting by John William Waterhouse

Subject Analysis

Look at our main character.

The woman is all engrossed in the fragrance of the pink rose growing against the wall.

She is elegantly dressed in a blue robe dress, which we can feel is soft and silky.

We can barely look into the background, as John himself didn’t give it any focus.

All we can emphasize is the lady with a perfectly made bun from reddish brown hair without a single strand of hair falling on her face.

The gracefulness we witness in the painting definitely makes it a masterpiece.

There is a saying that “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”

So tell me, what did you feel after your eyes laid on the woman with the rose?

Doesn’t it bring an immense amount of feminine beauty, sensuality, a vision, and a captivating view to the audience?

I guess this is how Waterhouse women’s are defined.

Like many of his works, this rose in painting speaks about unrequited love.

An interesting fact: The woman is believed to be one of the models, Miss Muriel Foster or Beatire Ethel Hackman of Waterhouse, for several of his paintings.

Image: wikimedia

Themes of The Soul of the Rose painting by John William Waterhouse


You are now aware of “The Soul of the Rose” artwork and it’s subjects.

So what could be a possible theme for this loving art?

Romance, fascination, sensuality, love?

William incorporates his woman with a great sense of passion by adding a simple look.

No wonder it belongs to the painting of romanticism.

Sexuality and longing for invisible love are the key themes of the painting.

The facial expression and the way she holds the rose in her hand give away a delicate view.

What you see is all beautiful.

But from where I see, there is a wall that restricts the woman. The wall seems like a boundary for the lady.

Although she is engrossed in the beauty of the pink rose, it is a barrier to her life.

An intriguing fact about John’s The Soul of the Rose art piece is that the artist gets fascinated by a powerful yet restrained woman.

You heard me right!

Various pieces of Waterhouse portray trapped women metaphorically.

This must have been how he observed women with high public profiles.

The Soul of the Rose is no exception, where the brick wall is the border, which she can never cross!

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Image: wikimedia

Color and texture of The Soul of the Rose painting by John William Waterhouse

Light, Color, and Texture

Don’t you get a warm feeling from the painting?

The palette used in The Soul of the Rose is comfortable and effortless.

No shiny color, no vibrancy—just some elegant shades that drive people’s attention towards the painting of roses.

It gives a feeling of summertime with it’s natural tone and setting.

If you take a closer look at the dress, the color blue with a sprinkle of golden pattern portrays wealth and prosperity.

Without the use of any extra material, John conveys the status of the woman he painted.

Amazing work, Mr. Waterhouse!

Even the brushstrokes seem so easy and uncomplicated.

He uses free hand and yet delivers a detailed and inescapable reality.

In The Soul of the Rose, Waterhouse implements the ideals of his age by depicting the mood of romance.

The canvas captures lost love, which we can clearly make out from the woman’s face.

The scent of the rose reminded her of a time or a person who was not present with her in that moment.

With her eyes closed and turned slightly away from the audience, she portrayed how deeply she has been lost in her thoughts.

The light is natural and doesn’t add any emphasis on a particular subject. Even you can notice the sunlight coming through, which leaves an innocent impact on the whole painting.

I guess we are all successfully in love with this artwork, aren’t we?

Wherever the painting is today, it must have brought beauty to their walls.

It can bring beauty to your abode too. Click on the link and get to own a fascinating artwork!

Who was John William Waterhouse?

John William Waterhouse, the painter of The Soul of the Rose painting
Image: cloudfront

Half of the painting’s history lies in the artist’s thoughts and perspective.

And John William Waterhouse was full of them!

He was an artist who loved to explore classical art themes like Greek mythology, Arthurian legends, and poetry from his time.

John would commonly demonstrate women in various settings. 

In order to become a sculptor, he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Art, but he ended up developing a keen interest in paintings. 

His paintings of Cleopatra are still counted among his greatest works.

He even used to enjoy the literary characters.

Authors like Alfred Tennyson were his inspirations, as you already know.

To know more about him, let’s take a look at the movement he belonged to.

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: Art Period

Image: britannica; Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Have you ever heard about the pre-Raphaelite period before?

The period belongs to the seven-member group, including poets, painters, sculptors, and critics.

In 1848, three artists, namely John Everett Millais, William Holman-Hunt, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, began this art period.

They were students of the Royal Academy.

But why did the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood come into existence?

They shared a similar thought about how the Royal Academy is uninspiring and does not bring any color to their lives.

Instead, they draw inspiration from Gothic and Renaissance art.

On the other hand, John William Waterhouse was heavily influenced by a group of painters from the pre-Raphaelite period.

He once saw the show of John Everett Millais, which made a huge impact on him.

And therefore, he became a part of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Suggested read: 24 Interesting Facts About Renaissance


Christie's auction with painting The Soul of the Rose
Image: ctvnews; edited by PortraitFlip

Waterhouse has left an astounding remark with his “The Soul of the Rose.”

The piece is one of his best works and captivates viewers with it’s romantic appeal, which is definitely hard to resist.

If you ask me, then it is a simple study of a woman standing in a garden, resembling the lover of a beautiful poem.

Whether or not the woman in the garden is Maud, the painting has the power to let anyone feel moved.

It is a mixture of love, loss, romance, heartbreak, and longing.

But we can’t change the fact that William’s The Soul of the Rose was sold for a relatively small amount.

It’s true!

A painting that makes you fall in love was not among the highest bidders.

This was because of Victorian art, which went out of fashion in the 20th century.

But we also cannot deny the reality that “The Soul of the Rose” is an extremely popular print today.

Waterhouse surely got his way through!

Writer Says Hi!

What a beautiful painting to share!

I love reading romantic poems and books but I never thought that I’d love reading a romantic painting.

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How were you feeling while going through the blog?

There is a comment box open to all where you can give insights and feedback.

Let’s hear what my readers want to say.

Happy reading, guys!


Q. What is the meaning of The Soul of the Rose?

The meaning behind The Soul of the Rose painting is restricted sexuality and longing for an invisible love (person).

Q. What is the other name for “The Soul of the Rose?”

The other name for the woman-smelling rose painting is “My Sweet Rose.”

Q. Which poem is the My Sweet Rose painting based on?

The painting is based on the Alfred Tennyson poem, “Come into the Garden, Maud.”

Q. Who was the famous rose painter of the artwork “The Soul of the Rose?”

John William Waterhouse is the painter of the soul rose painting.

Q. Which art period does John’s The Soul of the Rose belong to?

The Soul Rose art belongs to the romanticism art period as well as the pre-Raphaelite period.

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