Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ward, Edward Matthew

733351Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59 — Ward, Edward Matthew1899Campbell Dodgson

WARD, EDWARD MATTHEW (1816–1879), historical painter, born in Pimlico on 14 July 1816, was the younger son of Charles James Ward (1781–1858), by his wife, Mary Ford, sister-in-law of Horatio or Horace Smith [q. v.] The father was employed in Messrs. Coutts's bank. As a boy, Ward made original designs from the novels of Smollett and Fielding, Washington Irving's ‘Sketch-book,’ and his uncle Horace Smith's ‘Brambletye House.’ After spending a short time at several schools in London, he was sent for a year to the studio of John Cawse (1779–1862) in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, to learn oil-painting. Here he made many acquaintances in the theatrical world, and painted a picture of Miss Cawse, Braham, and Penson, in a scene from ‘Fra Diavolo.’ In 1830 he gained a silver palette from the Society of Arts for a pen-and-ink drawing. In 1835 he was introduced by Chantrey and Wilkie to the schools of the Royal Academy. He had already exhibited in 1834 a picture of the comedian O. Smith as Don Quixote. His second venture in 1835 was less successful. His picture, ‘The Dead Ass,’ from Sterne's ‘Sentimental Journey,’ was accepted, but not hung ‘for want of space.’ To resist the temptation to paint and exhibit prematurely in London, Ward resolved to study abroad. He started in July 1836, spent some weeks in Paris and Venice, and proceeded to Rome, where he remained about two years and a half. He drew from the antique, copied pictures, and worked industriously in the studio of Cavaliere Filippo Agricola, director of the academy of St. Luke, a classical painter of the David period, whose accomplished though formal draughtsmanship was a useful corrective to Ward. In 1838 he gained a silver medal from the academy of St. Luke for historical composition. His first important picture, ‘Cimabue and Giotto,’ painted at Rome, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839. In the autumn of that year Ward returned to England, stopping for some time at Munich to study fresco-painting under Cornelius.

From 1840 till the time of his death Ward was a constant exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and his pictures enjoyed great popularity. The subjects of the majority were taken from English history of the seventeenth century, or from French history of the period of the revolution and the first empire. To these should be added a remarkable group of pictures of English social life in the eighteenth century, scenes in the life of Dr. Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith being favourite subjects. These three branches of study were illustrated by the pictures which he exhibited in the years immediately following his return to England. ‘Napoleon in the Prison of Nice in 1794’ was purchased by the Duke of Wellington at the British Institution in 1841. In the same year he sent ‘Cornet Joyce seizing the King at Holmby, 1647,’ to the Royal Academy. In 1842 scenes from Shakespeare appeared at both galleries. In 1843 he exhibited at the Royal Academy ‘Dr. Johnson reading the Manuscript of the Vicar of Wakefield,’ followed by ‘A Scene from the Early Life of Goldsmith,’ in 1844, and ‘A Scene in Lord Chesterfield's Ante-room in 1748,’ in 1845. This picture was the first which made Ward's name widely known. It was purchased by Robert Vernon [q. v.], and is now in the National Gallery of British Art. ‘The Disgrace of Lord Clarendon,’ of which a small replica from the Vernon collection is in the National Gallery, was painted for Lord Northwick in 1846. In 1847 Ward was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. In that year he exhibited the ‘South Sea Bubble,’ also in the National Gallery, and a portrait of Maclise. The fourth of the National Gallery pictures, ‘James II receiving the News of the Landing of the Prince of Orange at Torbay,’ was exhibited in 1850. ‘The Royal Family of France in the Temple,’ 1851, and ‘Charlotte Corday going to Execution,’ 1852, increased the artist's reputation. In 1853 he was commissioned to paint eight historical pictures for the corridor of the House of Commons. It was not the first time that his name had been mentioned in connection with the decoration of the Houses of Parliament, for he had sent a cartoon, ‘Boadicea animating the Britons,’ to the first competitive exhibition at Westminster Hall in 1843. It did not obtain a premium, and he refrained from competing again. The first two of the subjects now assigned to him, ‘The Execution of Montrose’ and ‘The last Sleep of Argyll,’ were painted in oils; but the commissioners of fine arts found that they were unsuitable to the positions for which they were intended, and he was requested to repeat them in fresco. The originals fetched high prices. The remainder of the series, ‘Alice Lisle concealing Fugitives,’ ‘Monk declaring for a Free Parliament,’ ‘The Escape of Charles II with Jane Lane,’ ‘The Landing of Charles II,’ ‘The Acquittal of the Seven Bishops,’ and ‘William and Mary receiving the Lords and Commons,’ were painted in fresco on slabs of slate from finished studies, and then fixed in position. It was found necessary, to preserve the surface from the effects of gas, to cover them with glass, and this, in addition to the bad light in the corridor, makes it impossible to see them to advantage. In some cases the finished studies, in others replicas in oils or watercolours of these subjects, were exhibited during several years at the Royal Academy.

In March 1855 Ward was elected an academician. He had now settled at Slough, near Windsor, where he continued chiefly to reside for the remainder of his life, though he also occupied a house at Notting Hill for several years. In 1857 he was commissioned by the queen to paint ‘Napoleon III being invested with the Order of the Garter at Windsor,’ and the ‘Visit of Queen Victoria to the Tomb of Napoleon I.’ The most important of his later pictures were ‘Antechamber at Whitehall during the dying moments of Charles II,’ 1861; ‘Hogarth's Studio, 1739,’ 1863; ‘Luther's first Study of the Bible,’ 1869, which was purchased by subscription and presented to the British and Foreign Bible Society; ‘The Eve of St. Bartholomew,’ 1873; ‘Marie-Antoinette in the Conciergerie,’ 1874; ‘Lady Teazle,’ 1875; ‘The last Interview between Napoleon I and Queen Louise at Tilsit,’ 1877. In 1876, after a tour in Normandy and Brittany, he exhibited several pictures of modern French life. He took great interest about this time in the foundation of the Windsor Tapestry Works under the presidency of Prince Leopold. In 1877 he designed four cartoons of hunting subjects for Christopher Sykes, for the decoration of the staircase at 11 Hill Street, Mayfair, now the property of the Duke of Newcastle. He was more successful in another large cartoon for tapestry, ‘The Battle of Aylesford,’ which he designed for Henry Brassey's mansion, Preston Hall, near Aylesford, Kent.

After 1874 Ward's nervous system suffered from ill-health, and on 10 Jan. 1879 he was found in his dressing-room with a self-inflicted wound in the throat, to which he succumbed on 15 Jan. He was buried on 22 Jan. in his father's grave in the old churchyard at Upton, Buckinghamshire. Ward married, on 4 May 1848, Henrietta, daughter of George Raphael Ward, and granddaughter of James Ward (1769–1859) [q. v.], herself an artist of distinction, who was not related to him by birth. He left several children, who have carried on the artistic traditions of their parents' families. A portrait of Ward, by George Richmond, in the possession of Mrs. E. M. Ward, has been engraved by William Holl, jun. A large number of Ward's pictures have been engraved. The merits of the originals—smooth finish and accuracy of details—appealed strongly to the taste of the artist's own day, which greatly favoured historical genre-painting.

[Dafforne's Life and Works of E. M. Ward, 1879; Times, 18 and 19 Jan. 1879; Athenæum, 25 Jan. 1879; Academy, 25 Jan. 1879; Royal Academy Catalogues; James's Painters and their Works, 1897, iii. 253; private information.]

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