A Brief History of Mermaid Art

Mermaid ArtMermaid Art

The origins of mermaid art started with three kings that  caused the downfall of the kingdom. The Assyrian goddess Atargatis turned herself into a half-fish, half-woman creature after accidentally causing the death of her human lover. 

The legend of the Goddess lived on long after the fall of the Assyrian empire. She was depicted in etchings of the early 1600s, has appeared on coins and is still worshiped by some cults.

Similar half-woman half-fish legends may have existed in other cultures. Seafaring people told stories of sea monsters, sirens and mermaids. While sirens and mermaids are often thought of as similar creatures, the original stories of sirens referred to a half-bird, half-woman creature with a lovely voice that could lure sailors to their deaths.

Manatees Often Referred To As Mermaids


Manatees and other large sea-dwelling mammals are often referred to as mermaids. It is believed that the creatures seen in many “mermaid-sightings” were actually manatees, dolphins or another large mammal. 

It is also believed that when people reported seeing sea monsters, they actually saw manatees, octopi or perhaps whales. Another theory is that long sea trips without fresh water are accompanied by an increased risk of dehydration, which can cause people to hallucinate and see things that are not actually there. 

Famous Mermaid Art Artists

Waterhouse's diploma work for the Royal Academy of Arts, A Mermaid WikiWaterhouse's diploma work for the Royal Academy of Arts, A Mermaid Wiki

Sometimes comes in the form of oil paintings. One of the famous artists that painted his idea of how these creatures would look was John William Waterhouse. Waterhouse’s painting from 1901 is simply titled “The Mermaid”.

The half-fish half-woman in the Waterhouse painting has long red hair. Long hair is one of the traditional features of mermaids. Atargatis is always depicted with very long hair, sometimes down to her feet. Her hair is usually wavy and parted in the middle.

Even the cartoon versions have long hair, although the hair color varies. Many of the cartoons were inspired by the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, as is much of the modern mermaid decor. The hair may be any color; even blue, aqua or teal is sometimes chosen for the hair color.

Reproductions of the Copenhagen statue created to honor Hans Christian Andersen and his story are sometimes popular for decorating. The original sits on a statue and looks out over the bay. Copies can be found in a number of cities including the U.S. city of Greenville, Michigan. Partly because of Andersen, mermaids have come to symbolize the Danish heritage and culture.   

Disney Art

Disney Art WikiDisney Art Wiki

Disney created a new kind of that has become very popular for little girls of all ages. With the release of the 1989 Disney film, mermaids of all kinds experienced a new surge in popularity. You can find depictions of Disney’s Ariel on wallpaper, curtains, towels, bedding and a variety of decorative items.

Traditional and some of the modern mermaid art goes well with nautical decorating themes. A Waterhouse painting or print would look great anywhere. If you’re interested in mermaids, you will find there is a great deal of mermaid art and  decorative items to choose from online.

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