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John William Godward: a painter who was undervalued for too long

John William Godward: a painter who was undervalued for too long


Despite his works have nothing to envy to more famous painters, John William Godward is a figure still little known and only in recent years his works are gaining the place they deserve in the world of art.

Born in England, Godward has a difficult life and to follow his passion for painting he has to move away from his homeland since he is very young, as his family has always tried to hinder his passion and later also his love story with an Italian woman, his model.

To follow his vocation the painter moves to Rome, where he lives for seven years. Although his works are well executed, lively and unique, the artist, who works between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has encountered several difficulties to succeed. It is in fact a period in which everyone seems interested only by the movements of the avant-garde, while the works of John William Godward are influenced by both pre-Raphaelite and classic and neoclassical elements.

Women were his main subjects, attractive, seductive, idle and classical figures. "Girl in yellow drapery" is one of the most famous paintings by this artist, who was attentive to detail and often had his models lying on marble benches and tops, as it can be seen even when looking at this painting in warm colours. In this case, the woman is immersed in her thoughts, wearing a yellow and transparent robe that allows a glimpse of her breast.

In every situation in which the subject is a woman, one can notice the beauty of the model in question, as if she was a Venus, and the positions taken lead the observer towards the contemplation of the canvas. "Sweet doing nothing" or "When the heart is young" are two other examples of works by John William Godward in which women look sweet and young.

In his works the details, which are presented with great care, are remarkable: the marble that is depicted in a very realistic way, the trees that are well defined or the clothes of women. Each subject is perfectly placed in the environment, thus creating an image that strikes the viewer for the harmony it offers, while the sharpness of these paintings, which are a tribute to the ancient world, makes the picture look like a current photograph.

After his time in Rome, John William Godward returns to England in 1919 and unfortunately he commits suicide three years later (his body is buried in London), an action that outrages his family to the point that they decide to eliminate all the photos and documents of the artist, which is why there is little information about many works made by this English artist.

Tormented and melancholic, John William Godward can be defined as an unfortunate or cursed artist, but his works, which are born in a time when Impressionism, Abstractionism and other similar currents dominate, are now redeemed and they take the place they deserve in the world of art.

Article by: Aurora Caraman

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