The Yale Center for British Art describes James Ward as “one of the finest animal, portrait, and landscape painters of Regency England.” Apprenticed to an engraver at age twelve, he took up painting in order gain admission to the Royal Academy, initially founding his reputation on rustic genre scenes informed by those of his brother-in-law, George Moreland. Later, he adopted the bolder forms and more intense palette of Peter Paul Rubens.
During his lifetime he produced a large body of animal portraiture depicting horses, pets and livestock; the latter as part of a Board of Agriculture project to document particular breeds of farm animals. Their anatomical precision boasts of Ward’s careful observation, and often they express something of the animal’s individual mood or personality. A romanticist who aspired to become a history painter, he was gifted to see the inner nobility of whatever subject he undertook.