The British Neo-Classical artist John William Godward was born in the Wimbledon district of South-west London, more specifically Wilton Grove, on August 1961. Brought up in a Catholic household with four more siblings - Godward being the eldest - his parents presented tyrannical behavior, which affected him throughout his lifetime. Godward’s began working in his father’s insurance company, a profitable career path, but instead decided to study architecture with William Hoff Wontner, whose son became a painter and a good friend of Godward.
Like the master Frederic Leighton, Godward was an artist of the Victorian Neo-Classism - meaning he painted idealized subjects of ancient Greece. Also, aesthetically, Godward’s paintings resemble the masterpieces of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Both artists enjoyed portraying realistic textures of marble in the surroundings of Classical architecture. Alma-Tadena and Godward painted an artwork with the same title, In The Tepidarium, featuring a theme seen in most of Godward’s production; seductive and powerful women in an environment of ancient Greece. The British artist was keen on details and was able to portray intricate details with oil on canvas, giving life to fabrics, marble, and skin texture.
As a part of the Neo-Classicism, a highly Academic movement, Godward’s art was based on historical research, striving for as much accuracy as possible. The artist painted detailed architectural backgrounds and clothing to assure the authenticity of the scene. He was praised by the Royal Academy, which he had his debut in the exhibition in 1887 and would continue to show his work until 1905. Godward also became a member of the prestigious Royal Society of British Artists in 1889, and his popularity grew. The British painter also became vastly known after Thomas McLean, an art dealer, made print versions of some of his work, meaning his art became more accessible to the public in general.
In 1899, Godward had his first painting accepted in the Paris Salon. By the turn of the century, to Godward’s favor, the art world saw a revival of Classical interests. In 1913, he participated in the International Exhibition in Rome with the oil painting The Belvedere and won the gold medal for his masterpiece. It is common for viewers to mistaken Godward as a Pre-Raphaelite because of his primary subject beautiful and idealized Victorian women painted in vibrant color palettes, but the Neo-classicists focused more on ancient civilizations and not on Arthurian themes.
In 1912, Godward moved to Italy and by this time he was not in contact with his family anymore. At the age of 61, the artist committed suicide, a year after returning to England. Godward was buried in west London, in the Brompton Cemetery in 1922. His family who never approved of his life choices destroyed his pictures and his suicide note.