Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ward, James (1769-1859)

WARD, JAMES (1769–1859), engraver and painter, was born in Thames Street, London, on 23 Oct. 1769. He began to study engraving while still little more than a child, working for a time under John Raphael Smith [q. v.], and then serving an apprenticeship of nine years under his own brother, William Ward (1766–1826) [q. v.] He reached excellence very early, some of his best mezzotints being produced before he was of age. During the later years of his apprenticeship he also studied painting, and in 1794, before he was twenty-five years old, he was appointed ‘painter and mezzotint engraver to the Prince of Wales.’ His first picture was exhibited in 1790, and works by him are extant which cannot have been painted much later than this and yet bear no obvious signs of youth and inexperience. His early works were chiefly domestic scenes, bearing a strong resemblance to the productions of George Morland, who married his sister Anne. The first indication he gave of the great excellence he was afterwards to reach as a painter of animals was in a picture of ‘Bull-baiting,’ which was at the Royal Academy in 1797. From that time onwards he was a lavish contributor to the academy and the British Institution. His exhibited works reach a total of four hundred. The best of them all, perhaps, is the ‘Alderney Bull and Cow,’ now in the National Gallery, which he painted in confessed rivalry with Paul Potter's ‘Bull’ at The Hague. In 1817 Ward was premiated by the directors of the British Institution for his sketch of an ‘Allegory of Waterloo,’ and moreover commissioned to paint a picture from it four times the size of the sketch, for which he was to be paid 1,000l. Such an order might have been destruction to a more robust individuality than his. As it was, it only meant the waste of a year or two, after which he resumed his normal march. The ‘Waterloo’ was presented by the directors to Chelsea Hospital, where it still exists in a state of considerable dilapidation. In the Royal Agricultural Society Ward found patrons more congenial than the directors of the Royal Institution, and during the middle section of his life his industry was almost exclusively devoted to the painting of animals. These he treated in a style entirely his own, robust, searching, and full of character. He was a good colourist; his handling is always vigorous, expressive, and personal; his interest was keenly alive to the build and structure of everything he painted. His ‘Fighting Bulls,’ in the South Kensington Museum, has been compared, not unjustly, to the work of Rubens, which it resembles in colour, in vigour of movement, and in the unity with which its author has seen his subject. As a painter of animals Ward's chief patrons were Lord de Tabley and John Allnutt of Clapham. Towards the end of his life Ward divagated into a great variety of subjects, but his fame, which is still unequal to his merit, will always rest on his dealings with the animal world.

Ward was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1807, and an academician in 1811. Between 1792 and 1855 he contributed 298 pictures to its exhibitions. In 1830 he went to live at Cheshunt, where he died, 23 Nov. 1859, in his ninety-first year. His portrait, painted by himself at the age of seventy-nine, hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Another portrait, painted by Edward Matthew Ward [q. v.], was lent by the latter to the third loan exhibition at South Kensington in 1868 (Cat. No. 573).

His son, George Raphael Ward (1798–1878), engraver, was born in 1798. He studied under his father and in the schools of the Royal Academy. At one time he was much employed in making miniature copies of the portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence. He is better known, however, by his engraved portraits, which show considerable skill. He died on 18 Dec. 1878, leaving a daughter Henrietta, the wife of Edward Matthew Ward [q. v.], herself an artist of some ability.

[Autobiography; Redgrave's Dictionary; Bryan's Dictionary; Graves's Dictionary; Gent. Mag. 1860, i. 192; William and James Ward, by Mrs. Julia Frankau, 1904.]

W. A.