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John William Godward (British, 1861-1922)


John William Godward was a painter from England. He lived from 1861 to 1922. He is best known for his numerous paintings of lovely young women in classical settings. Godward was one of the premier painters of the late Pre-Raphaelite/Neo-Classicist era, an era of painting which ended in the early Twentieth Century when the more modern styles of artists like Pablo Picasso became the focus of the art world.

Godward was born in Wimbledon, England. His father worked in the financial arena, and was said to be overbearing and strict with his son. Godward's parents did not approve of his decision to become an artist, and even went so far as to cut his image out of family portraits.

Godward was known to be shy and humble. He was not one to socialize or self-promote. Despite this, Godward exhibited his work at the Royal Academy starting in 1887 and received good reviews early on.

Godward studied art from painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. From Alma-Tadema, Godward learned to look to ancient Greek and Roman art for inspiration. Godward used classical architecture as a background for his images of clothed and partially clothed young women. He frequently included marble railings, walls etc. in the background of his paintings for a classical look. His best known picture is Dolce Far Niente, which he painted in 1904. Although Godward painted until his death in 1992, his best known works mainly date to the period around the turn of the century.

What ruined Godward's career was the advent of painters with a more modern sensibility like Pablo Picasso. Almost overnight, Godward's work with its classical influence and style was seen as old fashioned and not with the times. Godward committed suicide when he was 61. He is said to have left behind a suicide note which read, "The world is not big enough for myself and a Picasso."

While critics of Godward's era turned on his style of classically inspired art for more modern styles, contemporary critics are much more favorable of Godward. Today, Godward is seen as an important painter in a style which fell out of fashion but is nevertheless important and meaningful.

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