Ladies with Letters: Classical Love

the-love-letter-1913With its dreamy, classical backdrop, John William Godward’s painting of a young woman reading a letter—titled as usual, “The Love Letter”—is a languorous fantasy of blue water and veined marble.

The well-heeled patrons who could afford to hang original art on their walls usually had a strong grounding in the classics, so Godward studied Greek and Roman architecture and attire to infuse his painted worlds with accurate details. Note the rust-colored staining along the marble seams, as though rain had worked its way into the cracks over the years.

The artist’s traditional British family did not approve of his career path, so they totally washed their hands of him when he moved to Italy with one of his models in 1912. This painting is dated 1913, so might the woman reading so intently be his partner in scandal?

Unfortunately, Godward’s Neo-Classical style became passe in the early 20th century with the eruption onto the art scene of surrealism, futurism, abstract art, and other avant garde styles. His career faltered, and he committed suicide at age 61, supposedly saying that “the world was not big enough” for him and a Picasso.

One of the last to paint subjects in classical settings, Godward reminds us how much the ancient world influenced European art, architecture and style for centuries.

Cards and other products featuring this painting are available in the Post Whistle Shop on Zazzle.

Visit the Ladies with Letters pin board on Pinterest.

One thought on “Ladies with Letters: Classical Love

  1. Phoebe Conn says:

    What a sad story! I wonder what happened to his model. Maybe she married a wealthy Italian who bought Godward’s work to have paintings of his wife. Someone should have had a happy ending besides Picasso!

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