James Ward (1769-1859)

James Ward (1769-1859)

Fighting Dogs

Oil on Canvas, 29 x 34cm / 42 x 47cm

Born in London, and younger brother of William Ward the engraver, James Ward was influenced by many people, but his career is conventionally divided into two periods: until 1803, his single greatest influence was his brother in law George Morland; from that time, it was Rubens. From 1810 or so, Ward started to paint horses within landscapes; slightly later, he turned to very large-scale landscapes, of which Gordale Scar (Tate, London), completed in 1814 or 1815 and depicting Gordale Scar (Yorkshire) as an example of thesublime, is considered his masterpiece and a masterpiece of English Romantic painting.

James Ward was one of the outstanding artists of the day, his singular style and great skill set him above most of his contemporaries, markedly influencing the growth of British art. Regarded as one of the great animal painters of his time, James produced history paintings, portraits, landscapes and genre. He started off as an engraver, trained by William, who later engraved much of his work. The partnership of William and James Ward produced the best that English art had to offer, their great technical skill and artistry having led to images that reflect the grace and charm of the era. He was admitted for membership into the Royal Academy in 1811.

One of Ward's best-known paintings,The deer stealer, was commissioned in 1823 for the sum of 500 guineas by Ward's patron Theophilus Levett. When the work was finished, Levett pronounced himself delighted with the results, and consequently raised the remuneration to 600 guineas. Subsequently Ward was said to have been offered 1,000 guineas for the painting by 'a nobleman,' which he declined. The painting now hangs at Tate in London.