In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: John William Godward, “A Cool Retreat.”
Works by the supremely talented Victorian Neo-Classicist painter John William Godward (1861-1922) headline a major sale at Sotheby’s this week in London. The artist was born in Wilton Grove, Wimbledon, but his family disapproved of his chosen profession, eventually cutting off all contact. A follower of Frederic Leighton, Godward established a reputation for his images featuring women in classical dress — often posed within marble interiors or lush pastoral landscapes.
Godward’s paintings are remarkable for their attention to detail, both historical and aesthetic. Often displaying exotic furs, animals, plant life, and a wide variety of textiles, many of the artist’s works are a tour de force of vibrant color, texture, anatomy, and composition.
Headlining Sotheby’s July 14 “Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist” sale are two remarkable originals from Godward, including “A Cool Retreat.” Typical of the artist’s oeuvre, the viewer is presented with a beautifully rendered female figure who reclines next to an outdoor fountain. Classically clad, the figure rests on a black fur while a few pigeons waddle about the scene. A serene calm overcomes the subject’s face, which is also blushing. Every fold and detail of the fabrics and textiles are included in the work. At distance we find a faint landscape beyond the doorway. Auction estimates for this beautiful painting are between $500,000 and $650,000.
To view the full catalogue, visit Sotheby’s.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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