James Ward: The Greatest Animal Painter of his Time

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of local artist James Ward RA. To celebrate, the museum has opened an exhibition highlighting his life and work, with loans from the Tate and Fitzwilliam Museum. The exhibition opened on 21 September 2019 and is on display until 25 January 2020.

The Moment, 1831, James Ward (1769 – 1859). Tate, London 2019. Photo credit:(C) Tate, London 2019

Ward was born on 23 October 1769 in London, the son of a greengrocer and cider merchant. He left school at a young age, before he could read or write and at the age of nine was the only wage earner in his family, washing bottles for 4 shillings a week.

Drawing came naturally to Ward, and by the age of 12 he was an apprentice mezzotint engraver to one of the best, John Raphael Smith. He was later appointed the painter and mezzotint engraver to the Prince of Wales. Ward chose to pursue his painting career, aspiring to be appointed as a member of the Royal Academy, which he finally achieved in 1811 at the age of 42.

Ward made Cheshunt his home for the last 31 years of his life. He had loved the countryside ever since he was a boy, it was so different from the hustle and bustle of London streets. In July 1855 he suffered a stroke that ended his career and died at Roundcroft Cottage in Cheshunt on 16 November 1859.

Portrait of James Ward, engraved by James Ward, c.1835, after John Jackson (1778 – 1831). Presented by Richard Godgrey 1994. Tate, London 2019. Photo credit: (c) Tate, London, 2019

On display in the museum is a selection of Ward’s works loaned by the Tate and Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as a sketchbook demonstrating the breadth of his work. These compliment the museum’s own collection of Ward’s work, on display in Lowewood’s James Ward Gallery.

The museum is open Wednesday – Friday 10am – 4pm and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission is free.

This project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

James Ward, RA

James Ward

James Ward was an English painter and engraver, often referred to as the greatest animal artist of the early 19th century. Born in 1769, he expressed fine drawing ability from a young age. His career began at the turn of the century when he was commissioned to create a series of animal portraits for the Board of Agriculture, leading to his reputation as a skilled animal artist.
Ward’s abilities led to a commission to paint both Wellington’s charger Copenhagen and Napoleon’s Marengo. He became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1811, and by 1814, the public saw him at the height of his reputation. It was during this time that Ward produced Gordale Scar, one of his most ambitious and greatest works.

In 1828, he moved into Roundcroft Cottage in Park Lane Cheshunt where he lived for 30 years. Ward is now ranked among the leading artists of the British Romantic movement.

The new gallery at Lowewood Museum features a number of his animal and landscape paintings and sketches. His works also feature in many museums and galleries, most notable the Tate Gallery, London.