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Museum of Art
View Roman Antiquities on Display
The name John William Godward may not ring any bells and his artwork may seem familiar but new to most. John is one of those fine art painters who throughout the centuries have been forgotten. And it can also be very difficult to discover artist from the past even with the internet without inspiration or clue as to who should be rediscovered even in the era of endless information.
A lot of times artist are forgotten due to paid negative critics, gallery influences or lake of, unforgivable race such as an Afro-American painter or being born a woman such as Mozart’s sister, Nannerl Mozart, who was just as talented as he was but was forced to marry and be forgotten. John William Godward is another tragic example who lived a life not unlike Vincent Van Goh with talent, tragedy and novel romance.
John William Godward was the oldest son of 5 born in Wilton Grove, Wimbledon, in August of 1861. His family’s success allowed him to have an education and was expected to work alongside his father’s investment firm but no sooner did he decline to work for his father that he set off to pursue a career as a painter of fine art.
In 1887 he had an exhibit at the Royal Academy at the age of 26. The Royal Academy of Arts in London is an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects who promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate.
After continuing to pursue his talent for painting and years of disagreement his father, John moved away to Italy in 1912 age 51 with one of this models. I could not find her name but I will guess that she is probably the black haired beauty depicted in most of this paintings.
After moving to Italy John was disowned by his family and from what we gather all communication was cut off. This is also why today we have no known photograph of john due to his family photographs that shown him were cut out or snipped off.
John was was a protégé of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema an Academic art painter who’s romantic style of painting fell out of favor with the rise of modern art and photography. Lawrence painted highly romantic themes of life in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and today many of his paintings can be viewed in large international cities such as the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
John was a Victorian Neo-classicist painter and the vast majority of john’s paintings feature women in Classical dress set in ancient Greece, Italy or similar Mediterranean landscape. When viewing one of his artworks the titles tend to explain John’s inspiration such as “Summer Flowers”, 1903- that depicts a beautiful youthful woman, picking wild flowers in a courtyard. You can view the picture on our show-notes.
Another of our favorite pictures is “Summer Idleness or Day Dreams” 1909 (look at the image and describe its beauty.) John took incredible meticulous detail and research of ancient life, architect and attire in order to paint his pictures as accurate as possible and if you take the time to look, to really look at the details in his pictures you will find that although his images are not crouwded down with visual accessories what you do see is as detail as a photograph.
John used beautiful women in repetitive poses that remind us of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, including that he dressed his models in bright dresses in sheer fabrics. However the main reason why he is not a Pre-Raphaelite is that his subject was based in ancient civilization versus rather than Arthurian or medieval legends thus he’s proper classification as a Victorian Neoclassicist.
Regardless of his talent, John was never accepted or forgiven by his family and the constant disproval followed by overbearing criticism of the changing times, was too much for john who tried to establish himself during the time of Picasso and other notable modernists and led to the unfortunate act of ending his life at the age of 61 where his suicide letter reads “The world is not big enough for me and a Picasso”. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery in west London.
At what point we are not sure but due to the fear of losing their good reputation Godward’s family burned all his possessions and photographs. John Willim Godward is sometimes credited as being the last revival painter of the classical genre and has been buried to his day by modern avant-garde works and pop culture.
We cant find a lot of biographical works for John in public catalogs such as libraries so we are not able to go into further detail as to the small moments of his life. We’ve linked up an online collection of his artworks on the anthenaeum website in the show notes if you’d like to view his works.
Remember to have fun and never give up on your curiosity!
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