Edward Matthew Ward (1816 – 1879)
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Edward Matthew Ward was an English Victorian narrative painter best known for his murals in the Palace of Westminster depicting episodes in British history from the English Civil War to the Glorious Revolution.
Ward was born in Pimlico, England. As a student at the Royal Academy of Arts Ward became a member of The Clique, a group of painters led by Richard Dadd. Like other members of the Clique Ward saw himself as a follower of Hogarth and Wilkie, considering their styles to be distinctly national in character. Many of his early paintings were set in the eighteenth century and were on Hogarthian subjects. He also painted episodes from seventeenth century history, influenced by the thinking of his friend, the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. He also painted subjects from the history of the French Revolution.
In the 1850s Ward came into conflict with the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Millais, whose style of art he considered to be un-British. Ward’s painting of Charlotte Corday being led to execution beat Millais’s Ophelia for a prize at Liverpool, leading to much debate at the time.
Such historical paintings led to Ward’s commission to paint eight scenes in the corridor leading into the House of Commons. These were to depict parallel episodes on the Royalist and Parliamentary sides in the Civil War. Ward’s paintings depict the opposed figures as if confronting one another across the corridor.
Ward continued to paint Hogarthian versions of episodes from British history throughout the 1860s, notably Hogarth’s Studio in 1739 (1863, York City Art Gallery) the Antechamber at Whitehall During the Dying Moments of Charles II (1865, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). In the 1870s he painted some modern-life genre subjects, but towards the end of the decade began to suffer painful illness and depression, resulting in his suicide in 1879.
His wife Henrietta Ward was also a painter. After her husband’s death she became a successful art teacher. His son Leslie Ward became a popular caricaturist for the magazine Vanity Fair under the nickname ‘Spy’.
Still wondering about a British painting in your family collection? Contact us…it could be by Edward Matthew Ward.