James Ward, R.A.
- James Ward, R.A.
- a sow with piglets
- signed l.r.: J WARD
- oil on canvas
- 38 by 60 cm.; 15 by 23 ¾ in.
Christie's, London, 27 September 1946 lot 155, where bought by Sir David Scott for 16 guineas
'How comfortable and superbly contented the old sow looks with a tummy that I feel I should like to poke with my finger.' Sir David Scott
Throughout his long career Ward showed himself to be a master of almost every aspect of painting; an accomplished portraitist, a superb landscape painter and an ambitious history painter. He is now acknowledged as one of the greatest animal painters of the nineteenth century. This charming study of pigs, with its characteristic touches of humour and strong sense of atmosphere, is a fine example of his early abilities as an animal painter.
Ward was born and brought up in Thomas Street near Southwark Bridge but he felt no affinity with the city. One of his earliest memories was the thrill which he felt when, as small child, he was taken out to the country in Kent. He encountered for the first time the sound of animals - "the noise was so new and odd that I tumbled out of bed and clambered up the old-fashioned window step to see what it was, and when I looked out it appeared as if I had got into heaven itself."
Amongst his earliest exhibits at the Royal Academy was Feeding Pigs, painted in the style of his brother-in-law George Morland. His skill in painting animals was rewarded in 1800 when he received the astonishing commission to paint two hundred portraits of cattle, sheep and pigs for the Board of Agriculture, to be engraved by Boydell. Ward threw himself into the project with tireless energy, travelling throughout the country in his enthusiasm to gather together all the relevant details of British livestock. Numerous drawings and oil studies were produced during this period and were used by him in many of his later works. It is likely that this fine painting of a sow with her piglets dates from this period.
A second version of this picture, formerly in the collection of the artist Sir Frank Brangwyn is now in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.