Godward Masterpiece At Bonhams 19th Century Paintings Sale

19th Century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art
26 Sep 2018
London, New Bond Street

Dolce far Niente, a masterpiece by the reclusive and tragic Victorian Neo-classicist painter John Godward, is offered for sale at Bonhams 19th century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art in London on Wednesday 26 September. It is estimated at £200,000-300,000.

Godward (1861-1922) often depicted young women striking studied poses against meticulously rendered classical landscapes, very much in the style of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, under whom he studied.

Bonhams Director of 19th Century Paintings, Peter Rees, said, "Godward was a master of detail who spent weeks researching the classical settings against which he would pose his models. He was one of the 'High Victorian Dreamers' whose idealised versions of the world proved immensely popular with the public. He tackled the theme of Dolce far Niente a number of times, attracted by the artistic possibilities of portraying 'pleasant idleness' and by the subject's broad appeal."

The artist had a deeply troubled relationship with his parents who strongly disapproved of his choice of career, and whose overbearing attitude affected his self-confidence. When the painter escaped to Italy with one of his models, his family disowned him and cut his image out of the family photographs; there are no known existing photographs of Godward. His work fell out of fashion in the turbulent early years of the 20th century, and he committed suicide in 1922 at the age of 61, having returned to England the previous year. He is said to have left a note saying 'the world is not big enough for myself and a Picasso." Out of shame at the manner of his death, the family destroyed all his papers.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit

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