John William Godward
Monday, 8th August, 2011
“Memories” is by far one of the most popular works in the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery. It is also one of the first, having been donated to the city in 1904 by George McCulloch.
The artist, John William Godward, was born in 1861 into a respectable Victorian family in Battersea, London. While his family were grooming him for a profession in insurance and banking, his artistic inclinations appeared to have been tolerated as a hobby.
When one of his works was accepted into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1887, his disapproving family was able to accept, to some extent, that he was a “real” artist.
A prolific painter, Godward is known to have produced at least 21 works in the same year that he painted “Memories”.
He continued to exhibit with the Royal Academy until 1905 but when he moved to Italy with one of his models in 1912, his family broke off all contact with him and reportedly cut his image from family pictures.
Godward was a Victorian Neo-Classicist, and associated with Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, with whom he shared a passion for depicting beautiful women in a classical setting, as seen in “Memories”.
His style of painting fell out of favour with the increased mainstream acceptance of modern art. He committed suicide in 1922 at the age of 61 and is said to have written in his suicide note that “the world was not big enough” for him and Picasso.
His already estranged family were ashamed of his suicide and burned his papers. No photographs of Godward are known to have survived.