Based on the ancient Greek legend of Hero and Leander, this painting illustrates Hero's last watch for her lover. As a priestess of Aphrodite, symbolized by the pink roses in her hair, Hero was barred from marriage. She met and fell in love with Leander and they continued a secret affair by which Leander would swim across the Hellespont channel from Abydos to Hero's temple at Sestos in the Dardanelles. Hero would light a lamp in the window of her tower to guide his way while she waited for him on shore. One stormy night, the lamp blew out and Leander lost his way and was drowned, overcome by the treacherous sea. When his body was washed ashore at Sestos, Hero threw herself from her tower and died.
As an ancient version of Romeo and Juliet, the story of Hero and Leander appealed to my love of tragic romance and star-crossed lovers. Many images have been created of various parts of the story, my favourites being "Hero Holding the Beacon for Leander" by Evelyn Pickering De Morgan (one of the few female Pre-Raphaelite painters), and "Hero's Last Watch" by Lord Frederic Leighton. My version of the story changed dramatically from initial idea to final outcome, resulting in a far more dramatic illustration. Originally, my 'vision' was of Hero waiting for Leander in her tower, resting on the windowsill with her lamp and looking out to the sea. As the idea formulated and I read more literature on the lovers, particularly "Hero and Leander - From the Greek of Museus" by Edwin Arnold, I decided to create a dramatic image of a classically draped nude, the first in this portfolio of work. I made deliberate artistic choices in stylizing the fabric, resulting in a 'scultped' look which I intend to intensify and continue in future works. I have also adopted a version of William Waterhouse's technique on painting hair, in which the hair is left as an almost-solid soft form with few highlights and shadows in comparison to the rest of the painting.