John William Godward
Godward was a Victorian Neo-classicist, and therefore a follower in theory of Frederic Leighton. However, he is more closely allied stylistically to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, with whom he shared a penchant for the rendering of Classical architecture, in particular, static landscape features constructed from marble.
The vast majority of Godward's extant images feature women in Classical dress, posed against these landscape features, though there are some semi-nude and fully nude figures included in his oeuvre (a notable example being In The Tepidarium (1913), a title shared with a controversial Alma-Tadema painting of the same subject that resides in the Lady Lever Art Gallery). The titles reflect Godward's source of inspiration: Classical civilisation, most notably that of Ancient Rome (again a subject binding Godward closely to Alma-Tadema artistically), though Ancient Greece sometimes features, thus providing artistic ties, albeit of a more limited extent, with Leighton.
Given that Classical scholarship was more widespread among the potential audience for his paintings during his lifetime than in the present day, meticulous research of detail was important in order to attain a standing as an artist in this genre. Alma-Tadema was, as well as a painter, an archaeologist who attended historical sites and collected artefacts that were later used in his paintings: Godward, too, studied such details as architecture and dress, in order to ensure that his works bore the stamp of authenticity. In addition, Godward painstakingly and meticulously rendered those other important features in his paintings, animal skins (the paintings Noon Day Rest (1910) and A Cool Retreat (1910) contain superb examples of such rendition) and wild flowers (Nerissa (1906), illustrated above, and Summer Flowers (1903) are again excellent examples of this).
The appearance of beautiful women in studied poses in so many of Godward's canvases causes many newcomers to his works to categorise him mistakenly as being Pre-Raphaelite, particularly as his palette is often a vibrantly colourful one. However, the choice of subject matter (ancient civilisation versus, for example, Arthurian legend) is more properly that of the Victorian Neoclassicist: however, it is appropriate to comment that in common with numerous painters contemporary with him, Godward was a 'High Victorian Dreamer', producing beautiful images of a world which, it must be said, was idealised and romanticised, and which in the case of both Godward and Alma-Tadema came to be criticised as a world-view of 'Victorians in togas'. Related Paintings of John William Godward :. | A Grecian Girl | The Peacock Fan | Chloris A Summer Rose | With Violets Wreathed and Robe of Saffron Hue | A Pompeian Garden |
Related Artists:Meade, Francis
American, Approx. 1807-1870William Aiken Walker
1839-1921Thomas Cooper Gotch
Thomas Cooper Gotch Gallery
In Newlyn he worked first at painting local scenes in the then-fashionable realist manner. But even these often had a romantic edge, such as The Wizard or an obvious love of surface colour.
In 1891 a visit to Florence, Italy, opened his eyes to the work of the romantic European symbolists. He took the brave step of changing his style, to make romantic decorative paintings, when the prevailing fashion was against him. His first work in this new style was My Crown and Sceptre (1892), which was the progenitor to his most well-known work The Child Enthroned (1894). The latter, on original exhibition, was hailed by The Times newspaper as the star of that year's Royal Academy show. Until that time, his new style of work had drawn much critical scorn.
He painted religious Christian scenes, history painting, portraits, and a few landscapes. His best-known paintings, which form the bulk of his work, usually portray girl-children in ornate classical or medievalist dress. The appearance of the girls in his paintings is often noted as being very modern. Gotch was a close and lifelong friend of Henry Scott Tuke, whose work featured a parallel focus on the boy-child. Gotch's lifelong adoration of the beautiful girl-child was shared by other Victorian giants such as John Ruskin and Lewis Carroll.
His emotionally-charged work was immensely popular and critically acclaimed for most of his life, although interest in neo-romanticism waned after the First World War and he turned to watercolours of flowers. He also illustrated books, such as Round About Wiltshire, The Land of Pardons (an early study of Breton folklore & Celtic Christianity), and contributed illustrations to school readers such as Highroads of Literature.
A retrospective show was held in Newcastle in 1910, and a memorial exhibition in Kettering in 1931.