Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow


Edward William Godwin

Nationality: English
Date of birth: 1833.05.26
Place of birth: Market Street, Bristol
Date of death: 1886.10.06
Place of death: 6 Great College Street, Westminster, London
Category: architect


Edward William Godwin, architect and designer. Godwin's parents were William (d. 1846) and Ann Jones Godwin (d. 1869). On 1 November 1859 he married Sarah Yonge, daughter of Rev. William Clarke Yonge of Henley-on-Thames. On 3 May 1865 Sarah died after a long illness. In 1868 he began a six-year relationship with the actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928). In 1868 they moved into the Red House, Harpenden with Terry, and they continued this rural life for six years. Their daughter Edith (1869-1947) was born on 9 December 1869. She was baptised in 1887 as Edith Geraldine Ailsa Craig. Their son, Edward (Teddy), later called Edward Henry Gordon Craig (1872-1966), was born on 16 January 1872. After Terry's return to the stage, and the dissolution of their relationship in 1874, Godwin married Beatrice Philip, a pupil in his office, on 4 January 1876; on 1 October that year a son, Edward ('Ted' or 'Teddy') was born. Beatrice was unwell for some time after the birth. It is clear from his diary entries that Godwin and his wife led fairly separate lives. Godwin died from complications following surgery to remove kidney stones.


Godwin may have met Whistler in 1863, when he was an established Bristol architect. He was a founding member of The Arts Club, of which he was a member from 1863-1873 and was a member of many other men's clubs. Like Whistler, he was a dandy, a man about town, of considerable charm and culture.

In 1874 Godwin collaborated with Whistler on the installation of an exhibition at 48 Pall Mall. In September 1877 Whistler commissioned Godwin to build him the White House, 35 Tite Street, to be large enough for him to open an atelier. The Metropolitan Board of Works at first objected to Godwin's designs, and revisions and delays engendered higher costs than anticipated.

In June 1878 an exhibition stand designed by Whistler and Godwin for William Watts, aesthetic furnture makers, was shown at the Paris Exposition Universelle (Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Butterfly Cabinet y195).

Both Godwin and Whistler were interested in theatrical design and production. Godwin directed the 'Pastoral Players' at Combe Hill Farm for Lady Archibald Campbell, and Whistler painted their patron in costume (Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell y242).

On Godwin's death in October 1886, Whistler ensured that suitable obituaries appeared in the London papers. He continued the portrait of Godwin's widow, Harmony in Red: Lamplight y253, who he married in 1888.


Soros, Susan Weber, (ed.), E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer, New Haven, 1999 ; Soros, Susan Weber, The Secular Furniture of E. W. Godwin, New Haven, 1999; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.