John Ward of Hull

Indiamen at anchor off Blackwall, with Greenwich Hospital in the distance

Oil on panel: 5.1(h) x 8.6(w) in /

13(h) x 21.9(w) cm

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BP 59

 

JOHN WARD OF HULL

1789 – Hull – 1849

 

Indiamen at anchor off Blackwall, with Greenwich Hospital in the distance

 

Oil on panel: 5 ⅛ x 8 ⅝ in / 13 x 21.9 cm

Frame size: 7 ½ x 11 ¼ in / 19 x 28.6 cm

 

Painted circa 1830

 

Provenance:

Private collection, UK

 

 

This luminous, sensitive view shows three Indiamen moored off Blackwall, where the Green family built and maintained them in the Brunswick basins, constructed circa 1793, that later became the East India Docks. Superficially, with their black and white trim and gun ports, the Indiamen look like large frigates: deliberately so, to fool enemies and pirates on the long voyage out East. However, their broad lines and raised ‘coach’ poops indicate that these ships were designed to accommodate cargo and wealthy passengers in comfort. The ‘coach’ poops provided a spacious, ‘roundhouse’ saloon for outgoing VIPs and returning nabobs. Jos Sedley, the East India Company merchant in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847), would have travelled in this style.  

 

In the background right, off the Blackwall shore, is a hulk, a dismasted ship used for various purposes, including prison accommodation. To the left of the Indiamen, in front of the marshy spit of the Greenwich Peninsula on which the O2 Dome now stands, is a Dutch galliott, and further left a hoy. In the middle ground is a Thames passenger wherry, a rowing boat with a long bow, the taxi of its day.

 

In the central distance, glowing white in the morning sun, are the buildings of Greenwich Hospital, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1690s as a home for infirm and elderly sailors, to complement Chelsea Hospital for soldiers further west on the Thames. Prominent are the two towers and cupolas, the eastern one surmounting the Chapel, the western one the entrance to the Painted Hall. Behind rise the wooded heights of Greenwich Park and Blackheath.

 

We are grateful to Pieter van der Merwe for the identification of the shipping.

 


JOHN WARD OF HULL

1789 – Hull – 1849

 

 

John Ward of Hull is best known for his accurate yet dramatic marine paintings, which are renowned for their unique, luminous quality. He most frequently portrayed his native Humberside, but also executed a number of exotic views of the Hull whaling fleet at work in the Arctic and the South Seas. He painted in oils and was an accomplished lithographer.

 

John Ward was the son of Captain Abraham Ward, a native of Derbyshire who was the master of the Brig Nancy, a trader between Hull, Bilbao and St Sebastian, and his wife Sarah. Abraham apprenticed his son to become a sign and house painter to a Mr Meggitt, but John Ward was released in 1818. This appears to be the only instruction he received.

 

Ward exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Royal Society of British Artists. Ward was a committed Freemason and appears in the robes of his Lodge in the only known portrait of the artist. Most of his commissions seem to have been for his brother Masons who admired his portraits as well as his marine subjects. Ward died in the epidemic of Asiatic cholera which decimated Hull in 1849.

 

The work of John Ward is represented in the Town Docks Museum, Hull, Wilberforce House, Hull, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull, the Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts and the Kendall Whaling Museum, Sharon, Massachusetts.

 

 

MarineJohn Ward of Hull