Friday, November 29, 2019

Red Hair in Art: John William Godward

John William Godward (1861 - 1922) was an English painter from the end of the Neo-Classicist era. He was a protégé of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, but his style of painting fell out of favour with the rise of modern art. He committed suicide at the age of 61 and is said to have written in his suicide note that "the world is not big enough for [both] myself and a Picasso".

He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1887. When he moved to Italy with one of his models in 1912, his family broke off all contact with him and even cut his image from family pictures. They were ashamed of his suicide and burned his papers. Only one photograph of Godward is known to survive.

Godward was a Victorian Neo-Classicist, and therefore, in theory, a follower 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 landscape features, although there are some semi-nude and fully nude figures included in his oeuvre.

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. In addition, Godward painstakingly and meticulously rendered other important features in his paintings, such as animal skins and wildflowers.

One of his models was Lily Pettigrew (you can see her in the first six paintings below).

A Summer Rose

Idle moments

Venus Binding Her Hair

Venus at the Bath

Portrait of Lily Pettigrew

Beauty in a Marble Room
(most likely Lily Pettigrew)

Mischief and Repose

A Lady

A Pompeian Lady

After the Bath (study)


The Jewel Casket

Il dolce far niente

In Expectation

An Auburn Beauty

Study of Miss Ethel Warwick

And last, but not least... a ginger cat!

The Tease

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