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James Ward R.A., was one of the remarkable 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 his brother William, who later engraved much of his work. The
partnership of William and James Ward produced some of the best that English art
had to offer, and 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.
James Ward a painter, particularly of animals, and an engraver. Born in London, and younger brother of William Ward the engraver, he 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 the sublime, is considered his masterpiece and a masterpiece of English Romantic painting.
Ward devoted much of the period 1815-21 to the painting of a gigantic work titled Waterloo Allegory (now lost); this neither was much praised nor brought in the revenue Ward had hoped for. The experience may have embittered him, and the deaths of his first wife and a daughter were among other tragedies. Like many artists of the time, Ward sought commissions from wealthy gentry of their favorite horses, their favorite hunting dogs or their children.
One such family that Ward painted and drew repeatedly, and whom he counted among his friends, were the Levett family of Wynchnor Park, Staffordshire. One of Ward's best-known portraits was his Theophilus Levett hunting at Wychnor, Staffordshire of 1817. Another was Ward's 1811 painting entitled The Reverend Thomas Levett and his favourite dogs, cock-shooting. Ward also painted a group portrait of three Levett children — John, Theophilus and Frances Levett.
In 1830, Ward moved to Cheshunt (Hertfordshire) with his second wife, but he continued to work, particularly on religious themes. A stroke in 1855 ended his work, and he died in poverty.
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