JOHN WILLIAM GODWARD, R.B.A.
1861 - 1922
signed J.W. GODWARD and dated 1900 (lower right)
oil on canvas
40⅜ by 24¼ in.
102.6 by 61.6 cm
Thomas McLean, London
Sale: Freeman's, Philadelphia, June 23, 2002, lot 22, illustrated (as attributed to a Follower of John William Godward)
Bijou Fine Arts, Santa Barbara, California
Maureen Murphy Fine Arts, Montecito, California
Acquired from the above in 2004
Vern G. Swanson, John William Godward, The Eclipse of Classicism, Woodbridge, 1997, p. 203, no. 1900.12
Vern G. Swanson, J.W. Godward 1861-1922, The Eclipse of Classicism, Woodbridge, 2018, p. 326, no. 3, illustrated
In The Posy, John William Godward presents a departure from his iconic Neoclassical scenes. Instead of cloistered on a marble terrace or in a Pompeiian villa, his contemplative model roams the countryside, collecting wildflowers in her tambourine. Godward’s extraordinary technical mastery is evident in the handling of the young woman’s diaphanous pink coa vestis stola (the female variation of the ancient Roman toga), and classically inspired flame red palla (Roman shawl). The artist sensually contrasts these vivid gossamer fabrics with the flowering trees and open path, overlooking a distant Mediterranean vista. Like other artists of the Victorian period such as Frederic Lord Leighton, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and Albert Moore, among others, Godward’s allegiance to Antique themes remained consistent throughout his career and became synonymous with an art of great aesthetic beauty and harmony.
In Godward’s prolific oeuvre, he exquisitely renders scenes of idle contemplation and idyllic beauty, in which life is devoted to the daily pursuit of pleasure. His works were initially admired by the prominent art dealer, Arthur Tooth, who purchased ten of the artist’s early oils, but Godward’s greatest champion was his longstanding art dealer Thomas McLean. Godward was a productive and consistent artist, producing on average fifteen to twenty high quality paintings a year, and his income was supplemented by engraved reproductions of his images, making him popular with the middle-class Victorian market. Godward lived and worked in various artist studios throughout London, including Bolton Studios, a hive for classical artists, and the quiet, reclusive No. 410 Fulham Road. He filled his studios with marbles, ancient statues, and antique objects to create a Greco-Roman environment and bring his imaginary world to life.
In 1887, Godward secured his entry into the Royal Academy and continued to exhibit there until 1905, when he moved to Italy. Dated 1900, The Posy was painted while Godward was living in London, although in spirit it is entirely Italianate. A painting titled “The Posy” and dated 1900 which was sold by Thomas McLean has long been unlocated, and the present work was known only through a poor photograph. Recently, upon first-hand inspection, Vern G. Swanson has confirmed the attribution to the artist and it will be fully included in his forthcoming revision to the artist’s catalogue raisonné.