John William Godward (1861-1922, British)

John William Godward (1861 –1922, British) was born in Wilton Grove, Wimbledon. Even though the eldest of five siblings, he was shy and reclusive, and not much is known about him.  Godward was a Victorian Neo-Classicist who, unfortunately, started painting at the end of the era only to be superseded by artists such as Picasso.

A classical scholar, Godward did extensive research into his subject. His paintings are detailed and feature women surrounded by Classical architecture causing him to be called a “Marble School” artist. In addition, women are clothed in classical dress and sometimes fully nude. Often times posed on tiger and leopard skins, the women exude a longingness and melancholy. The softness of fur, silk, marble and skin permeate his works especially the paintings Idleness and The Favorite, both centered on a woman playing with a kitten. Godward romanticized the Classical world and Victorians related to ancient Rome.  His patrons were scholars of the period and nouveau riche.

As times changed, Godward’s works were cast aside in favor of the new avant garde creations of the Dadists and Surrealists. Some believe that he suffered from a personality disorder which drove him to take his life at age 61 in 1922. He left a note stating, “The world is not big enough for myself and Picasso.”


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