From the moment of this book's nascence in 1976, my wife Judy Nielson Swanson, has been this projects chief encourager and enabler. While I was at the typewriter and computer she was taking the work-load of home and Museum off my shoulders. For twenty years she has "pushed the project" in countless ways, most of which I am just now beginning to realize. My dear daughters, Amber Christie and Angela Renee' have lately been my Godward book assistants.
It would be impossible to have even an inkling of what Godward was like without the help of three family members. The first was Ivy Godward of Walton-on-Thames, the only person known by the author who actually knew the artist. She provided invaluable information of a personal nature unavailable elsewhere. My interviews with her in 1979-80 convinced the author that he had a book.
Gilbert Milo Turner of Great Barr in Birmingham, who married into the family was also informative and helpful. All that he and his kindly wife possessed they made available to the author. With family anecdotal information, photographs, letters and early works of art, a view of John William Godward began to appear.
Then with Peter Godward of Rustington, the artist's nephew, I was able to piece together the "family view" of the artist, with remarkable clarity. He possessed two sketch books, documents and numerous oil sketches and personal data which enhanced and supported the project. These great souls made my project their project. They created an information-base starting in 1979 until today, which continues to sustain the scholarship of this book. They cared about the artist and have trusted me as his biographer.
My collaboration with Alice Munro-Faure, a art historical researcher in Cranbrook Kent has proven to be the 'clincher' in finding enough information to write this book. Though she was a paid assistant in this project only since February 1995, Alice constantly went the extra mile, using her considerable talents and experience to uncover many veins of material on the artist and his milieu. The book would NOT have happened without her more than generous interest and long hours of work.
My dear friend Roy Brindley of Richard Green Fine Paintings in London must now be mentioned. His interest in Godward and my research in British classical-subject artists has sustained my work since 1978. I call Roy, "My friend in London" because, in that epicenter of Victorian/Edwardian art studies, I needed a friend.
Terry Parker of Reigate Surrey has steadily contributed to the quality of this publication by providing information and photographs of the Pear Prints. Although he has been busy with his own publications on Fred Morgan and Arthur Elsley, he has taken the time and effort to help his American colleague. Without the "Brits" how could this foreigner have succeeded.
Throughout, I have been indebted to the major auction houses in New York and London for their constant and considerable help. They provided photographs of hundreds of works of art, and more importantly announced to the world my "forthcoming biography and catalogue raisonne" through credit lines in Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips auction catalogues. This focused all Godward interest my way, which continues to prove a rich source in all things Godwardesque. Friends like Simon Taylor, Martin Beisley, Poly Satori and Nancy Harrison, Sarah Colegrave, Jane Holland and Sophie Money, and many others have made it possible.
Art dealers have also been supportive. I am grateful to the former Cooling and M. Newman Galleries of London for allowing me to examine their files. Richard Green Fine Paintings, Leger, Polak, Williams and Son, Galleries have also allowed me access to their files and provided photographs. Jeremy Maas, Roy Miles, Peter Nahum, Waterhouse & Dodd, Whitford & Hughes, and Christopher Wood Galleries have provided photographs and information on Godward. Amazingly they have done this in the early days of my research, in spite of the author's lack of bona fides.
My friend, Christopher Wood, has been a font of information and inspiration. An art research nerd and friend, Edward P. Bentley of Lansing Michigan has, from 1984, been a source of information on Godward. I also thank Julian Wontner for sharing his work on William Clarke Wontner. Ann Godward Wilkie, a relative of J. W. Godward, has greatly helped by providing family wills, birth and death certificates.
I acknowledge a number of local history archivists at various Borough Libraries who have been very helpful, namely those at: Battersea, Morden, Wimbledon, Holborn, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea. As well as The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England as well as Jeremy Rex-Parkes (Christie's archives). Thanks to Anne Wheeldon, Archivist-Public Service of Fulham and archivist, Richard A. Shaw of Battersea have been helpful. In addition I thank Frances Stainton, who lives in the Chelsea Studios and Keith Whitehouse, a local Fulham historian, who came up with much background information.
In Utah and the West, Adrian Comolo of the Brigham Young University Library has been of immeasurable help with the Italian side of the equation. Many thanks go to Dr. David Glover of Bountiful Utah, my brother Dr. Robert Dale Hill of Central Point Oregon, and Dr. Kent Rich of Salt Lake City for help to silhouette a personality profile of the artist. And finally to the Springville Museum of Art Board of Trustees and Staff for allowing me to indulge my art historical eccentricities.
Ignored by the quickly changing tastes of the art critics, Godward became the climatic figure of English classical-subject painting as this genre itself shriveled under the blaze of the 20th century avant-garde. He was the best of the last great European painters to straight-forwardly embrace classical Greece and Rome in their art. Herein lies his significance to art history. With him and his colleagues, we see the nightfall of five hundred years of Classical subject painting in Western art.
Desperately idealistic, Godward was one of those artists, who at first glance, we think we fathom completely. Since he is often dismissed with the inadequate catch phrases: an Alma-Tadema clone, a "too late" Classicist, a "pedant of the brush", a "pot-boiler" or merely the painter of an insipid world of languorous women on marble benches, no serious study of his art has been undertaken. And because we are a society that honors "firsts" rather than "lasts" few art historians have examined the demise of Classical subject-painting, of which Godward is a chief exemplar. All of these judgements, in the light of historical distance, can be seen as unjust prejudices.
In Godward's work we see the final summation of half a millennium of Classical antique influence on Western painting. Next to Christianity it was by far the greatest outside influence on European painting. It vanished during Godward's generation -- killed, as it were, by contemporary nihilistic philosophies. While pointed references to Classicism continued, even unto today, the idealistic rhetoric accompanying it has died. During a period of rapidly declining interest in Greco-Roman antiquity courageous artists from the 19th century continued, against all odds, in this field for the first third of the 20th century.
Godward, as one of the greatest practitioners of the Classical ideal. His art represents the summation of this incredibly important paradigm. What Godward does represent, is a microcosm for all Classicists during a period aptly called "The Twilight of the Gods" or "The Eclipse of Classicism." In the bigger picture, his career offers the clearest example of the death of the classical Greco-Roman subject painting. A slightly younger generation after Godward also saw the demise of modern-style classicism in the hostile environment of the early 20th century.
Christopher Wood, who is greatly responsible for the resurrection of many obscure artists, like Godward, described him in the first edition of his Dictionary of Victorian Painters as an "imitator of Lawrence Alma-Tadema with whom he is sometimes confused." In the second edition this was amended to: "[He] developed his own very personal variation on the Alma-Tadema theme." This simple correction clearly demonstrates the increased attention being focused on Godward's pictures as his prices rose. For, in reality, very few of us could ever confuse a Godward with an Alma-Tadema.3 This neglect has continued unto today, when private collector's have begun to include him in their collections at prices rivaling those of Tadema himself. Art historians are now beginning to evaluate both Godward and his post-Olympian contemporaries, the "Last Classicists." The reason for this upsurge in appreciation is the realization that the quality of his work compares favorably with other late 19th and early 20th century Classicists. Over a remarkably consistent career of almost forty years he created a vital niche for his art.
This reclusive genius has now become too important not to have a monograph written about him. Except for Godward's death notice, nothing more than a paragraph has been written about him. His pictures have 'bullied' their own way to the top of the Victorian price scale on their own merits, not with the help of scholarly promotion. Since Godward never spoke for himself, except while exploring a private world of his own through his art. This publication must speak on his behalf. It will allow us to critically come to grips with this most enigmatic artist we all think we know, but in reality do not know at all.