Paintings by James Ward


James Ward, the maternal uncle of Edward "Old" Williams, and for a short time his caretaker, was born in London on October 23, 1769 - the son of James and Rachel Ward, the elder James beng a laborer in the cider cellars. The younger James at the age 13 apprenticed briefly under the master engraver John Raphael Smith, then around 1793 began training under his older brother William Ward, who himself was an engraver of considerable note. James became a mezzotinter, and quickly established himself as one of the most talented engravers in London.

Impressed by his brother-in-law, the notorious but exceptionally gifted painter George Morland, Ward became interested in painting. By 1791, he had left his brother's employ and instead of engraving other peoples works began engraving his own compositions and trying his hand with the brush. Although he probably never received any formal instruction from his brother-in-law, his early paintings depicted rustic scenes similar to Morland's style. From these he moved on to compositions of animals fighting, similar to some of the work of Peter Paul Rubens. Starting about 1810, he began painting landscapes featuring animals, which made him one of the best-known painters of London, and led to his being elected to the Royal Academy of Art in 1811. Though not executed by Ward until 1834, the engraving on the left is from this period of his life.

His landscapes became larger and grander, and he began work in 1811 or 1812 on the Gordale Scar in West Yorkshire, a wild, rocky chasm so dark and dense that the respected art collector Sir George Beaumont said it could not be painted. However, Ward's immense 11 by 14 feet canvas of "Gordale Scar", which he completed in 1814 or 1815, successfully captured the majesty of the scar, and it is considered his masterpiece. This work hangs today in the Tate Gallery of London.

After winning a prize of 1,000 gold guineas (equal to 1,000 pounds sterling) from the British Institution in 1815 for the best allegory commemorating Wellington's victory at the Battle of Waterloo, Ward was entrusted with the commission of the painting and began work on his "Allegory of Waterloo". Completed in 1821 as a gigantic 21 by 35 ft canvas, and displayed in 1822 in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, both public and critics condemned it. Ward himself was unhappy with the result, and the work was soon relegated to storage. It was cut up after Ward's death and and all that remains today is the small-canvas study that he submitted to the British Institution to win the commission, and the concept sketch that the study was painted from. The failure of this painting, coupled with the death of his daughter Emma in 1817, and then his wife Emma two years later, embittered him, and he became increasingly withdrawn from the art world.

As with most artists of his day, Ward's livelyhood depended on commissions from wealthy patrons for portraits of their horses, pets and families. One such patron, and a gentleman whom Ward numbered among his closw friends, was Theophilus Levett of Wynchnor Park, Staffordshire. Ward's 1811 painting of "The Reverend Thomas Levett and His Favourite Dogs, Cock-Shooting" is an early example of his work for the family, and his portrait of "Theophilus Levett Hunting at Wychnor, Staffordshire" painted in 1817 ranks among his best-known paintings. However, it is the "The Deer Stealer" that was commissioned by Levett in 1823 for the sum of 500 guineas, which stands out among the others. Levett is said to have been so pleased with the canvas that he raised the commission to 600 guineas, and it was rumored that Ward turned down an offer of 1,000 guineas from a nobleman. This painting hangs today with the "Gordale Scar" in the Tate Gallery.

Ward is probably best known for his horse portraits, which stand out among his works from the 1820s. The portrait above right from an 1826 engraving by an unknown artist, captures Ward during this part of his life. He moved to Cheshunt in Hertfordshire in 1830 with his second wife Charlotte, and began focusing more and more on paintings with religious themes. He also painted many portraits, a number of which hang in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Nonetheless, he did not enjoy the popularity and prosperity in his later years that he knew in the early 1800s. A stroke in 1855 resulted in partial paralysis and ended his career as an artist. He is said to have died in poverty on November 7, 1859 at his cottage in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.

James Ward displayed his work from 1790 to 1855 (400 paintings) at all the major exhibitions of his day, including the Royal Academy (298 paintings), the Suffolk Street Gallery of the Royal Association of British Artists (9 paintings), and the British Institution (91 paintings). He also exhibited twice for the Society of Artists before its demise in 1791.

Today, examples of his work can be seen in several museums and galleries, some of which are listed below.

  • Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England (7 paintings)
  • National Portrait Gallery, London, England (30 portraits)
  • Tate Gallery, London, England (16 paintings and several prints)
  • Royal Academy of Arts Collection, London, England (3 paintings and several drawings)
  • Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge, England (6 paintings)
  • National Museums and Galleries of Wales (3 paintings)
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (1 painting)
  • Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado (2 paintings)
    and various other galleries and museums, including
  • The Royal Collection, London, England (1 painting)
  • Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, England (1 painting)
  • Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, England (1 painting)
  • Courtauld Institute of Art, London, England (several drawings)
  • New Art Gallery, Walsall, England (1 painting and a drawing)
  • Southampton City Art Gallery, England
  • Tyne & Wear Museums, England (2 paintings)
  • Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (1 painting)
  • Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia (1 painting)
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (prints and drawings)
  • Dahesh Museum, New York City (1 painting)
  • Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts (2 drawings)
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts (drawings)
  • Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Art Institute of Chicago (1 painting)
  • Oklahoma City Museum of Art (1 painting)
  • The Huntington Library, California (drawings)
James Ward - circa 1790 - Peasants Snowballing.
One of Ward's earliest paintings, it is very much in the style of his brother-in-law George Morland and could have easily been passed off as one of Moreland's works.
James Ward - 1793 - Smugglers (after George Morland).
A hand-colored version of the mezzotint engraving by James Ward of one of George Morland's painting. It was published on Nov. 1, 1793 by Ward's former master John Raphael Smith. This is one of four or so engravings that Ward did of Morland's paintings for which he received full credit. However, James' older brother William is credited with 69 engravings of Morland's paintings, yet some of these undoubtedly were engraved by James during his apprenticeship under his brother.
James Ward - 1793 - Fishermen (after George Morland).
A companion mezzotint to the above, it is again one of Morland's works, engraved by James Ward and published by John Raphael Smith on Nov. 1, 1793 as before. "The Fisherman, and the Smugglers" (above) represent probably two of James Ward's best engravings.
James Ward - 1795 - A Livery Stable.
A mezzotint by James Ward that was published Jan. 1, 1796 by T. Simpson. Although an original composition by Ward, it is still very much in the style of George Morland. A hand-colored version of the same mezzotint is shown on the right.
James Ward - 1797 - Fight Between a Tiger and a Lion.
One of Ward's early paintings, in the style of Rubens, from the period when he was still known primarily as an engraver. Ward later made an engraving of this painting and published it himself on June 1, 1799.
James Ward - 1806 - Boa Serpent Seizing his Prey.
Another painting in the style of Rubens. The horse is a portrait of George IV's favorite mount Apollo.
James Ward - 1808 - Fighting Horses.
This painting was sold by Ward for thirty guineas in 1807, then exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year. It was painted during a time when his reputation as a painter was on the rise.
James Ward - 1811 - A Portrait of the Rev. Thomas Levett and Favorite Dogs, Cock-Shooting.
The Rev. Thomas Levett of Packington Hall was a well-known sportsman and close friend of James Ward, and Ward received several commissions for paingings from both Thomas and his brother Theophilus. These mostly date from 1811, when Ward became a member of the Royal Academy, and was at the height of his popularity. Some of them rank among his best. Although the canvas at right, with a date of 1812, appears to be Thomas Levett, it is titled "John Levett receiving pheasants from his retriever at Wychnor Hall."
James Ward - 1811-1813 - Gordale Scar.
Said to be so dark and dense that it could not be painted, Ward's interpretation of the Scar, shown on the left, is considered by many to be his masterpiece. A smaller, brighter version of the scar that Ward painted afterwards is on the right. The left-hand "Gordale Scar" is an immense 11 by 14 feet canvas that hangs today in the Tate Gallery of London.
James Ward - 1817 - Theophilus Levett Hunting at Wychnor, Staffordshire (left).
The portrait on the left is of Theophilus Levett of Wychnor Hall, the Sheriff of Staffordshire and the bother of Ward's friend Thomas Levett. It is one of Ward's most popular paintings, as well as an early example of the horse portraits for which he is best known. The painting at right, titled "The Levett Children. John, Theophilus and Frances Levett", shows the children of Theophilus.
James Ward - 1821 - The Allegory of Waterloo.
The painting on the left is the preliminary 35 52 inch, oil-on-canvas study of the Allegory of Waterloo, for which Ward in 1815 won a prize of 1,000 gold guineas (1,000 £), and a commission to execute a full-size version of the work for the British Institution. The small study survives today in the collection of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and Ward's concept sketch for it is on the right. The end result was a giant 21 by 35 ft painting that took Ward six years to execute. Displayed in 1822 in the Egyption Hall in Piccadilly, this huge canvas was not popular with the public, nor the art world, and soon thereafter it was placed in storage and forgotten. Ward was not happy with it either, and not long after his death it was cut into pieces that have since disappeared.
James Ward - 1823 - The Deer Stealer.
Painted for Theophilus Levett, the painting on the left was exhibited at the Royal Academy, afterwhich Ward received counter offers from other buyers for the painting, but Ward stayed true to Levett. A detail of this painting, painted by Ward in 1828 for another patron, is on the right. The Deer Stealer ranks with Gordale Scar as one of his masterpieces.
James Ward - 1824 - Marengo (left).
Ward painted many horse portraits as he got older and these are what he is best remembered for. They also provided him his best commissions in the years when his popularity was in decline. The portrait on the left of Marengo, Napleon's mount at Waterloo, is one of Ward's most reproduced works. An undated horse painting on the right, titled "Elephant", most likely dates from this period also.
Ward executed many self-portraits of himself. The engraving on the left is by Ward, but it is after a picutre painted earlier by his son-in-law John Jackson. Though Ward made this engraving in 1834, it shows the artist at a much earlier time in his life. The two paintings of Ward below, which date from 1834 (left) and 1848 (right), are his own works. Both hang in the National Portrait Gallery of London, along with 28 other portraits from his brush.





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