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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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John William Godward's life ended in tragedy after taking his own life and this shame brought upon his family forced them to destroy much of the documentation that existed around his life.

With most photographs of him lost and also many other personal items burned in anger at his last act, we are left with a disappointingly small collection of information to piece together what we can about the man himself. Ironically, the one quote that we do have from his life was written in his final moments as he fell into a real state of despair. We are left with connecting his life with others and perhaps uncovering more about his life from a third-party perspective.

This situation is common with artists from the Renaissance and particularly in the years just before that, but less so from Victorian times where so many more records in society would be kept. A further reason could be that Neo-Classicism did not attract quite the same academic or public following as some other movements at around this time, so less focus was placed on documentating the careers of artists like Godward or Alma-Tadema than the likes of say, the impressionists.

We do know that Godward was a particularly quiet, private person and this may have contributed to the limited success of his career. His own parents were known to be strict and serious, typical of Victorian times, and this impacted his own difficulties with building relationships as he grew older. He would become somewhat of a loner without ever really consciously choosing this path. He was known to be polite, almost to a fault, in a desperate attempt to gain affection and fondness from others.

Famous Quotes by John William Godward

The world is not big enough for myself and a Picasso.

Written in his suicide note at the age of 61.

Quotes about John William Godward by Art Historians and Famous Artists

John William Godward was among the brightest stars of the late Graeco-Roman painters, during classicism's twilight and final extinguishing.

Vern Grosvenor Swanson Ph.D. in J.W. Godward - 1861-1922 - The Eclipse of Classicism