James Ward, R.A.
- James Ward, R.A.
- the deer stealer
- signed with initials and dated l.l: JWRD RA/ 1828
oil on panel
- 30 by 36.5 cm.; 11 ¾ by 14 ¼ in.
Christie's, London, 11 December 1931 lot 61, where bought by Sir David Scott
London, Arts Council, British Life, 1953, no. 50
"The scene is a deer park and the keeper is climbing down from the tree out of which he has just shot the buck. The rest of the herd is galloping away. The dead deer is reproduced exactly in a vast picture by the same artist in the Tate Gallery called The Deer Stealer." Sir David Scott
This poignant study is for one of Ward's largest compositions, the Deer Stealer, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1823 and now hangs in the Tate. The scale of that picture and the fine quality of its execution is all the more remarkable as it was painted in 1820 at a time when Ward had just finished his most ambitious work The Triumph of the Duke of Wellington which was to bring him close to bankruptcy.
The Tate's Deer Stealer was commissioned by Theophilus Levett for 500 guineas. The Levett family, from Wychnor Park in Staffordshire, were one of Ward's most important patrons. Ward painted a number of works for the family including The Reverend Thomas Levett and his Favourite Dogs, and Cock-Shooting (Paul Mellon Collection). So pleased was Levett with the finished version that, according to Grundy, he increased the price to 600 guineas and such was Ward's loyalty to the family that he turned down a subsequent offer of 1000 guineas 'from a nobleman'.
This study differs in many respects from the Levett commission. In the larger composition Ward considerably expanded the subject, altering the position of the deer stealer (who it is said was modelled on a notable poacher) and introduced a pony, whilst omitting the running herd of deer found in the centre of the present composition. Another study for this subject was exhibited at the British Institution in 1827.