07 January 2007

John William Godward: The Eclipse of Classicism

Scarce art book. To call this artist the Thomas Kinkade of his day would be a little unfair, Godward could paint beautifully...Antique Collectors' Club, books are usually small quarto hardback art books, some much collected, always excellent productions, this is probably the most valuable. Worth more until this very year was George White's English Lantern Clocks but the 2007 reprint has put the kibosh on that. Art reference is a bit of a minefield...

Vern Swanson. JOHN WILLIAM GODWARD.THE ECLIPSE OF CLASSICISM. Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, 1988. ISBN 1851492704

Current Selling Prices
$800-$1200 /£450-£650

A Catalogue Raisonné (magic words - basically meaning a definitive catalogue of the artist's work) attractively produced book on the artist with over 150 colour illustrations. Godward is a still revered British painter (1861-1922) of classical themes with amusingly kitsch, predictable subject matter and titles which must have seemed dated even then. Not laughably kitsch in the Bouguereau league but up there with high camp painters like Edward Longsden Long.

The Edwardian painter mentioned in Powell's 'Music of Time' the Academician Horace Isbister is possibly based on Godward. Isbister's old friend St. John Clarke was writing an art book about him for Jenkin's firm that never got finished. A ghost. Godward was a 'beauty painter' of the Graeco Roman post Alma Tadema variety-- usually lightly draped women, coloured marble and the Med in the background with titles like 'In the Tepidarium' and 'With Violets of Saffron Hue'. He was in fact Tad's protegĂ©. 'Violets' sold last year for £250,000 and with prices like that no one is laughing anymore - except the consigners. Godward's career went into reverse with the coming of modernism and he killed himself, apparently leaving a note to the effect that the world was not big enough for him and Picasso. Munnings felt the same. The sad end of the last 'High Victorian Dreamer.'

VALUE? A very hard book to find. Catalogue Raisonnees are often needed by the owners of paintings by the artist to sell or authenticate them and with Godward making serious money the book is important. There is one at Half.Com at $1500 and the 2 that were on the web at $950 and $1600 3 months ago appear to have sold. The latter was amost certainly a relister. The one presently at half.com is also that of a relister so it may not exist but merely be the ghost of a cheaper copy that has sold. Smoke and mirrors -- this is why it is unwise to take an artificial and inflated price as the true value of a book.
A valuable art book anyway (unless it gets reprinted and ATG do reprint and revise; they are a lively firm just down the road from where I am sitting.) The NY art critic Grace Glueck visiting the Russell Cotes in Bournemouth does quite a good demolition job on the genre. That being said if you are ever near Bournemouth go there. [Want level 15-30 Quite High]

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