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JOHN WILLIAM GODWARD

English, 1861-1922

Untitled - Classical Beauty (c)

1909, oil on canvas
signed and dated J. Godward '09 upper left
20 x 16 in., frame: 24 x 20 in.

  • Condition: Wax lined; uneven and yellowed varnish; scattered inpainting around edges (visible out of frame); two small (approx. 3/4 in. in length) horizontal areas of loss along bottom edge; area of craquelure with two minute flakes of paint loss in lower left corner, in background, just above figure's arm.

    Restoration work was likely performed by the Finlayson Brothers (who did the 1953 restoration of the John Singer Sargent murals at the Boston Public Library).
  • Provenance: Provenance: Property from the Estate of a Collector, Milton, Massachusetts

    Grogan & Company thanks Vern G. Swanson, PhD. for his assistance in preparing the catalogue entry for this painting.
    He writes, "This stunningly alive 'beauty' engages the viewer in an intimate yet virginal way. Her deep chestnut braided hair contrasts vividly against the white veined marble, and rich colours of her clothing. She wears a pink dress fastened at the shoulders with pearl fibulae. A moss-green shawl complements the pink dress attesting to Godward's innate ability to enliven his work with subtle chromatic choices. The artist understood his times, just enough, to imbue a more Aesthetic vision of Classical restraint.
    In the year 1909 [Godward] was approaching the apogee of his fame. His 'beauties' paintings of 20 by 16 inches women were extremely popular and during this year he painted at least fourteen such works. It was his habit to arbitrarily title each one with a Classical Greco-Roman woman's name he found in a compendium. Since he didn't title his work on the back until 1911, many of the known paintings do not relate to exhibited pieces. Sadly, this oil too has lost its proper title, and might have been labeled Aglaea, Amyta, Cynthis, Lysilla, Myrtis, or Phylacis, to name a few unlocated pictures he painted in 1909.
    The work does not correspond to any of the artist's models and seems to be a portrait, probably of Paul E. Cremetti's bride who appears in two other known paintings, A Fair Beauty (1910) and Classical Beauty (a) (1909, Swanson 2018, color plate 241, p.247). This latter canvas is dedicated to Eugene Cremetti's new daughter-in-law, that is very similar, perhaps even a study to the untitled oil now being examined. The son had come into his father's art business in 1906 and was married in 1909. This latter painting is very similar painting except for its size of 14 x 12 inches, and has a slightly different variegation to the marble. However, the Untitled painting is both a larger and more compelling version."

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June 14, 2020 11:00 AM EDT

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