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Phyleis by John William Godward

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Phyleis by John William Godward

- Item No.

The Greek love story of Phyleis is the subject of this painting by John William Godward

Key Features

  • The Greek mythological tale of Phyleis is the subject of this outstanding painting by Godward
  • The paintings of John William Godward are known for their implicit sensuality and masterful details
  • Neoclassical artists including Poynter, Alma-Tadema and Leighton were Godward's greatest influences
  • Dramatic palette, luxurious textures and classical vision distinguish all of Godward's paintings
  • This painting is featured in Vern G. Swanson, Ph.D. book on Godward
  • Signed and dated "J.W. Godward.1908." (lower left); Oil on canvas
  • Canvas: 38 high x 22 wide; Frame: 52 1/4 high x 36 wide

Item Details

  • Width:
    C:22 F:36 Inches
  • Height:
    C:38 F:52 1/4 Inches
  • Period:
    19th Century
  • Origin:
  • Subject:
  • Artist:
    Godward, John William
John William Godward, R.B.A.
1861-1922 British


Signed and dated "J.W. Godward.1908." (lower left)
Oil on canvas 

A most extraordinary work by John William Godward, widely considered among the most important and influential classical painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this spectacular canvas, Godward exhibits his passion for Greek mythology by portraying Phyleis, (also known as Phyllis), the daughter of King Siphon of Thrace, who fell in love with a Trojan warrior. The warrior, Demophon, promised to return to Athens and marry Phyleis on a certain day. When he did not arrive on time, Phyleis hanged herself and metamorphosed into an almond tree at the exact moment when Demophon arrived to marry his love. The jewel-like palette, meticulous detail, and classical vision of this painting are all characteristic of this remarkable artist. Without question, this is one of Godward's finest works, incorporating those elements for which he was most recognized.

Raised in Wimbledon, England, Godward debuted at London's Royal Academy exhibition in 1887. By the subsequent decade the burgeoning artist was on a steady ascent to artistic success. Having fell under the influence of British Neoclassical Revivalists Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Lord Frederic Leighton, and Sir Edward John Poynter, Godward quickly adopted, if not rivaled, their style. He envisioned similar scenes of the ancient world, seamlessly blending antiquity and beauty in breathtaking compositions. The sensuality and mystery of Godward's maidens, combined with his impressive antique backdrops, attracted fans across Europe and sent Godward on a rapid ascent to artistic stardom. In 1889 he was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists. Ten years later Godward debuted at the Parisian Salon of 1899, where again he was heaped with praise. In the early years of the 20th century, however, Godward was faced with the painful reality that the classical world he so loved was being overshadowed by modern art movements. He moved to Rome in 1912 to surround himself with the physical remnants of the classical world, and there he stayed for the major part of his remaining career.Godward's paintings have enjoyed a resurgence in the past few years and he is now the most celebrated and in-demand English artist on the market today.

A full detail of this painting is described on page 221 of Vern Grosvenor Swanson'sbook John William Godward, The Eclipse of Classicism.

Canvas: 38" high x 22" wide
Framed size: 52 1/4" high x 36" wide

Select Artist's Museums:
The J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, California
The Musee de Arte De Ponce, Puerto Rico
The Forbes Magazine Collection
The Manchester City Art Gallery
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
The Western Kenya Museum, Kenya

Artist's Exhibits:
The Royal Academy Royal Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street
Royal Glasgow Institute for the Fine Arts
The Royal Institute of Painters in Oil Colors
The Paris Salon Paris Exhibition Universelle (1900/1914)
The Rome International (Gold Medal, 1913)

John William Godward, The Eclipse of Classicism, 1998, Vern Grosvenor Swanson, Ph.D.
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 1976, E. Bénézit
Popular 19th-Century Painting, A Dictionary of European Genre Painters, 1987, Philip Hook and Mark Poltimore
Dictionary of Artists Who Have Exhibited Works in the Principal London Exhibitions From 1760-1893, 1901/1970, Algernon Graves, F.S.A.

Member of the Royal Society of British Artists  

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