John William Godward was the son of a successful middle class family. He had a stern authoritarian father and a very narrow minded mother and they totally disapproved of their eldest son becoming an artist. His paintings of beautiful young semi-naked women in classical Mediterranean settings compounded his parents perception of their son’s lifestyle, and created irreconcilable differences. His figure was cut out of the family portraits and they actively sought his downfall.
Utterly determined to be a painter, Strongly influenced by Alma-Tadema he was perhaps the closest to him in terms of ability. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887. Godward’s search to portray peace, feminine beauty and perfection came to life in his paintings of beautiful women in idealistic classical Graeco-Roman environments.
He desired anonymity and privacy and to be left in peace to paint his dreamy images of beautiful women with more than a hint of eroticism, restfully posed and in idealistic classical locations. He consistently demonstrated his astonishing technical ability and mastery. To this end, he was the ‘Best of the Last’. Godward’s nature was melancholy, kindly and reclusive. He was handsome, talented and shy and he became increasingly saddened and depressed by the violent and uncertain times he lived in. The mounting rejection of his principles of classical painting and the bitter attacks from art critics who were promoting the avant-garde, only worsened his situation.
Godward moved to Italy from 1912 to 1919 and then returned to London. He never married and became more solitary and depressed as he got older. He was ignored and sometimes made an object of derision by critics and the public. The once vast popular acceptance of late Victorian art and its heroes vanished. It was intolerable, he saw no point in going on and gassed himself in 1922, leaving a note saying;