Featured Artist: John William Godward

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Featured Artist: John William Godward

Published May 27, 2007

Ignored by the quickly changing tastes of the art critics, Godward became the climatic figure of English classical-subject painting as this genre itself shriveled under the blaze of the 20th century avant-garde. He was the best of the last great European painters to straight-forwardly embrace classical Greece and Rome in their art. Herein lies his significance to art history. With him and his colleagues, we see the nightfall of five hundred years of Classical subject painting in Western art.

Desperately idealistic, Godward was one of those artists, who at first glance, we think we fathom completely. Since he is often dismissed with the inadequate catch phrases: an Alma-Tadema clone, a "too late" Classicist, a "pedant of the brush", a "pot-boiler" or merely the painter of an insipid world of languorous women on marble benches, no serious study of his art has been undertaken. And because we are a society that honors "firsts" rather than "lasts" few art historians have examined the demise of Classical subject-painting, of which Godward is a chief exemplar. All of these judgements, in the light of historical distance, can be seen as unjust prejudices...

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John William Godward
A Grecian Lovely, 1909
Oil On Canvas
(50.8 x 40.6 cm)