He was born in Rome to William and Isabela Waterhouse, both painters themselves. When John was 5 years old the family moved to South Kensington near to the newly founded Victoria and Albert Museum. During his early years he studied under his father before entering the Royal Academy schools in 1870. His early works were of classical themes in the spirit of Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton[?], and were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Society of British Artists and the Dudley Gallery.
In 1874, at the age of 25, Waterhouse submitted the classical allegory "Sleep and His Half-Brother Death" to the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. The painting was very well received, leading him to exhibit at the RA almost every year thereafter until his death in 1917. In 1883 he married Esther Kenworthy, the daughter of an art schoolmaster from Ealing who herself exhibited her own flower paintings at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. There is no record of the couple having children, though it's possible they lost a child at a young age.
Waterhouse's most famous painting is "The Lady of Shalott", a maiden
who dies of grief when Lancelot will not love her. He actually
painted three different versions of this character, the first in
Anybody have information about the other versions?
Waterhouse continued to paint until his death in 1917. His grave can be found at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.