Sunday, 14 June 2009


“The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?” - Pablo Picasso

For Art Sunday today, a painting by John William Godward (1861-1922), “In the Days of Sappho” (1904). Little has been recorded of the life of John William Godward, and he was active from the end of the Pre-Raphaelite/Neo-Classicist era until his painting went out of fashion during the revolutionary art movements of the early twentieth centuries.

He was inspired by the painter Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, and Godward imitated Tadema’s Neoclassical style. Both were counted among the members of the “Marble School,” known for its depictions of subjects drawn from ancient Greek and Roman life placed in elaborate settings, with especially careful and realistic rendering of details like marble and flowers.

Godward regularly exhibited his paintings at the prestigious Royal Academy in London, where they were initially greatly admired by the public. By the time he was in his fifties, however, the Marble School’s approach had fallen out of favour. Godward nonetheless continued to paint in this manner until his suicide at age sixty-one. He is said to have written in his suicide note that “the world was not big enough” for him and a Picasso.

His already estranged family, who had disapproved of him becoming an artist, were ashamed of his suicide and burned his papers. No photographs of Godward are known to survive.

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