In his biography of the artist Vern Swanson writes: "1910 emerged as one of the best years of Godward's career". Long established within the London art world, his commercial and critical standing reached their apotheosis within an increasingly imperialist culture which likened the expanding British Empire to that of ancient Rome. Godward produced some of his most impressive works, polished yet sensual representations of classical maidens set against Mediterranean coastal landscapes or the ornate marble surfaces of the classical interior.
Godward had lived in Italy between 1905-7, and in 1910 revisited Rome. Reverie belongs to a series of tondos executed by the artist at this time. Other examples include A Grecian Girl (1908), Idle Hours (1910) and In Realms of Fancy (1911). Vern Swanson draws our attention to the picture's consummate decorative quality:
"Peacock feathers are used by the model as a shade from the summer sun and as a fan for its heat. The ivy overgrowing a low wall effectively acts as a transitional device between the foreground to the landscape beyond. The delicately carved white marble wall functions to quieten the profusion of detail and to heighten the brilliant colour of the Roman maiden's dress. In the distance is seen the glistening blue Mediterranean sea...This painting drinks deep of [Godward's] Italian experiences."
John William Godward was one of the finest exponents of the High Victorian classical tradition pioneered by Leighton and Alma-Tadema. He and his great friend and one time tutor William Wontner brought a warmth and balmy langour to their classical subjects, infusing this ideal world with a gentle intimacy and humanity.
We are grateful to Vern Swanson for his help in preparing this catalogue note.