John Ward

The Newspaper Boys


Not on display

John Ward 1917–2007
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1372 × 915 × 22 mm
frame: 1425 × 969 × 65 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Charlotte Bonham Carter Trust 1998

Display caption

Ward was born in Hereford and studied at the art school there before attending Royal Collegein London. Over the years his high reputation in portraiture has led to many prestigious commissions. He was elected Royal Academician in 1965. This painting shows Ward's two young sons, William (left) and George. It was painted at Bilting Court, the house he has lived in since the 1950s. He described the painting: 'I concocted some kind of lay figure for George, the shorter of the two boys, and I had a child lay figure for William's costume'.

Gallery label, September 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of commercially-primed, medium-weight linen canvas that was stretched around a five-membered expandable stretcher and attached with steel tacks at the edges and occasionally at the rear. The priming has not been fully examined but probably consists of lead white in linseed oil (the upper white layer), applied over an initial unpigmented layer of animal glue 'size'. The overall thickness of this priming is sufficiently thin for the canvas weave texture to remain apparent through it.

The paint is oil and was applied exclusively by brush over most of the stretched face of the canvas, although the white ground is visible in a few random areas. A fairly loose technique was used in most of the painting, except for the areas of newsprint where a much finer brush and more precise technique was employed. The final image often consists of a single paint layer, although there are several areas (such as the newsprint and faces) where a certain amount of layering is evident. The paint is a mixture of opaque and transparent colours that was applied in a range of thicknesses, from the thin, transparent brown used in the top left corner, to areas of appreciable impasto in the newspaper hats and clothes. In the lower part of painting, there are extensive areas of small losses that appear to have been caused mainly through abrasion. However, it is thought that this may have been part of the artist's technique, as these lie beneath a varnish layer. The application of varnish has resulted in a uniform surface of reasonably high gloss.

The painting is in good condition. The paint surrounding the areas of abrasion in the lower part of the image appears quite secure and futher loss is extremely unlikely. The present glazed frame was made at Tate in 2000, soon after the painting's acquisition, and provides a high level of protection to the front and back of the painting.

Tom Learner
July 1998

You might like

In the shop