Be in me as the eternal moods
of the bleak wind, and not
As transient things are –
gaiety of flowers.
Have me in the strong loneliness
of sunless cliffs
And of grey waters.
Let the gods speak softly of us
In days hereafter,
The shadowy flowers of Orcus
Remember Thee.

The painting is titled Boreas, after the Greek god of the north wind and it shows a young girl buffeted by the wind. The 1904 Royal Academy notes described the subject of the painting as:

"In wind-blown draperies of slate-colour and blue, a girl passes through a spring landscape accented by pink blossom and daffodils".

art, painting, and john william waterhouse image
Painting: Boreas, by John William Waterhouse, in the Pre-Raphaelite style created in 1903.

You might not be familiar with the name, John William Waterhouse, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve seen any number of his illustrative paintings.

He painted in the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, a school of painting that was started in 1848. Though he was only two years old during their heyday, he carried on their tradition into the 20th Century.
And like the Pre-Raphaelites he takes his inspiration from mythology, religion, and literature.

This painting in particular, Boreas, depicts a young woman walking through woods and fields. She is caught in a windstorm. Her dress and headscarf and are blown violently and she’s leaning backwards to save from being blown over. Yet, despite being caught in this tempest when you look at her expression, she is rather melancholy; she’s thinking of something, and it’s not the weather. Maybe she’s thinking of some lost or unrequited love.

In this painting Waterhouse combines styles. The figure in the foreground is painted more realistically while the background landscape is more in the style of the Impressionists. The two styles are woven together through their common palette of cool colors. In contrast, there’s this bright yellow daffodil tucked behind her ear drawing the eye to the woman’s head, yellow being a compliment to the blues and purples that dominate the rest of the painting,
It’s a painting that works on a couple of levels. Taken on its face, it’s a portrait of a beautiful, ethereal woman, caught in a storm. But then there’s that title: Boreas.

Boreas was the Greek god of the North Wind and he’s often depicted as a craggy old man, with scraggly hair, wings, and carrying a conch. He’s thought to be very strong and violent. He is the harbinger of winter.
The conch is interesting. If you’ve ever held a conch to you hear you can hear what sounds like the wind. Now take a look at that scarf. It has the spiraling appearance of a conch.

So how are we to interpret this painting? Is she Boreas? Or is she just subject to the wrath of Boreas?