Shannon was born in New York State, moved with his family to Canada when he was 8 and went to London when he was 16, to study at the South Kensington schools. He became one of the city’s leading portrait painters. Particularly when not restricted to a likeness, he painted freely and without drawing, straight onto the canvas with bold strokes, rather like Waterhouse, and indulged his romantic vision. This painting was exhibited at Agnew’s in 1900 where, ‘it was considered one of the most original of the contributions. ... The arrangement of these nymph-like beings is charming. They are not posing for an artist, but enjoying to the full a world of translucent waters, of beauty, deep and impenetrable in which they live. The poise of the white- crowned wave has been sensitively felt. Mr. Shannon has a freshness of vision, has technical facility, is a painter whose future it will be interesting to follow’ (F. Rinder, The Art Journal, 1901, p 45). It was also noticed by the critic of the Evening Standard: ‘The heads and shoulders of four young girls in the water - a piece full of movement, colour, and of charming life - is called by Mr. Shannon “Sirens”. The girls are delightful, and, in intention, absolutely innocent and harmless. Not even the most ridiculously cautious mariner, who ever hesitated about the passage of Southampton Water need be concerned to steer clear of sirens so benevolent and so bewitching. And yet, for all that, the piece is imaginative, and satisfactory entirely’ (10 November 1900, p 3).