Sale: Christie's, New York, October 24, 1990, lot 347A, illustrated
Kurt Schon Ltd., New Orleans
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, May 23, 1996, lot 136, illustrated
Acquired at the above sale
Vern G. Swanson, John William Godward, The Eclipse of Classicism, Woodbridge, 1997, p. 175, no. 1889.2, partially illustrated p. 151, pl. 121
Vern G. Swanson, J.W. Godward 1861-1922, The Eclipse of Classicism, Woodbridge, 2018, p. 260, no. 1889.2
A Classical Beauty is one of John William Godward’s earliest compositions, painted in 1889 when the artist was only twenty-six years old. At the time, Godward’s career accelerated dramatically and he was enjoying commercial success with the prominent London dealer Thomas McLean, who inspired self-confidence in the young artist and commercial confidence in his art. With this newfound financial stability, Godward moved out of his parents’ home and settled in Chelsea, where he sought a more Bohemian lifestyle at the center of the London art world. In 1889 he painted twenty-four works, a stark contrast to the eight paintings he finished in 1888. Further, his compositions had become considerably larger than those of previous years.
It is in these early works that Godward begins to develop the idyllic, dream-like world that would come to define his oeuvre. A Classical Beauty features a dark-haired model seated atop a tiger skin, staring over her shoulder to confront the viewer with a seductive, half-lidded gaze. Here the artist has demonstrated his knowledge of the ancient world as well as his painterly abilities by conveying the tactility of soft fur, delicate fabric and sturdy, cool marble.