James Ward (RA) was an English painter and engraver with a reputation of being the greatest animal artist of the early 19th century. He lived in Cheshunt for the latter part of his life and received major commissions from reputable patrons. His work features in many museums and galleries, notably in the Tate Gallery in London. Lowewood Museum celebrates this local artist by dedicating a gallery to his work, displaying a number of animal and landscape paintings and sketches.
Ward was born in 1769 in London and demonstrated his skill in drawing from a young age. He began his professional career as an engraver and by the turn of the century he was commissioned to create a series of animal portraits for the Board of Agriculture.
Ward’s talents were quickly recognised and he was soon commissioned to paint Wellington’s horse Copenhagen and Napoleon’s Marengo.
He became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1811, and by 1814, he was at the height of his reputation. It was during this time that Ward produced Gordale Scar, one of his most ambitious and greatest works, depicting Gordale Scar in Yorkshire. It is a depiction of the sublime and a masterpiece of English Romantic painting, and is now in the Tate collection.
In 1828, Ward moved into Roundcroft Cottage in Park Lane Cheshunt where he lived for 30 years. His final exhibition was held in 1855 before suffering a stroke the same year which ended his artistic career. He died at Roundcroft Cottage on November 16 1859 aged 90, and is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.
Today James Ward ranks among the leading artists of the British-Romantic movement, particularly in his depiction of horses and dramatic landscapes.
James Ward was among a great generation of British landscape painters which included Turner, Constable and Varley.
He was happiest when working in pencil, making rapid energetic studies as he travelled around Britain. He kept these sketches and studies in his studio and used them as resources for his exhibition works.
Ward appreciated the romantic potential of the British landscape and most famously captures this within the greatest of his works, Gordale Scar. Ward was also keen to capture the picturesque view of many of Britain's dilapidated rural dwellings and castles.
Ward was keen to prove that he was more than an ‘animal painter’ and so produced a series of figure sketches and paintings throughout his career.
Although Ward did not attend the Royal Academy schools, where life drawing formed part of an artist’s training, he did attend lectures by the Anatomist, Joshua Brookes – where both human and animal anatomy was studied.
In 1800, Ward was commissioned by the Board of Agriculture to create a series of animal portraits recording the various breeds of livestock in Britain. This scheme had a huge impact on Ward’s work, introducing him to a group of wealthy patrons who commissioned many works from him. The work also required Ward to travel extensively, and thus presented him with vast inspiration for his studies.
It was relatively early in Ward’s career that he established himself as a skilled horse painter, for which he received critical acclaim.
If you have any questions about James Ward or our collection please contact Lowewood Museum on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01992 445596.