Oil on canvas; 30 by 25 ins; 76 x 63.5 cm; held in a late 18th century carved and gilded Marrata style frame
Provenance: Sir Charles Metcalfe, Bt. (1785-1846)
William Ward is first and foremost known as an engraver and printmaker. However in his early years he is known to have painted portraits in the style of George Morland and John Raphael Smith, whom he was apprentice to, eight of these exhibited at the Royal Academy 1785-1799. These portraits, whilst derivative, have nuances of style and an individuality of approach that also set them apart from the early work of his brother James. Fairly swiftly his skills as a printmaker became apparent with him concentrating on this more lucrative side of the art market and abandoning portrait painting. Examples of his early oil works are therefore scarce.
Painted in the round on a rectangular canvas, the present portrait was clearly intended for the designed frame it is currently within. At the corners of the canvas colour tests in the form of broad brush marks are evident, a working method Smith commonly applied, often with his pastels. The colours are fresh and vibrant and lend an air of spontaneity and immediacy.
The painting is held in the original period frame which bears the inscribed plaque of ownership to Sir Charles Metcalfe Bt., a significant colonial administrator who became acting Governor-General of India, Governor of Jamaica and Governor General of the Province of Canada. He was elevated to the peerage in 1845. It is highly likely that this portrait represents a member of his family. Ward engraved a portrait of Sir Thomas Metcalfe, father of Charles, in 1804 and therefore was clearly known to the family.
Ward exhibited portraits and engravings at the Royal Academy from 1785 until his death. Appointed mezzotint engraver to the Duke of York in 1804 and engraver to the Prince of Wales in 1813 he produced fine engravings of all the major portrait painters of the day including William Owen, Thomas Phillips and John Jackson.