The Great Bull, c. 1802
oil on canvas
65.1 x 83.2 cm
Permanent loan to the Winnipeg Art Gallery from the City of Winnipeg, James Cleghorn Collection
James Ward studied with his brother William, a successful mezzotint engraver, and eventually became painter and engraver to the Prince of Wales (1762–1830) in 1794. Ward’s interest in engraving quickly waned as he turned to painting, due in part to the influence and successful painting career of his brother-in-law, George Morland. The Great Bull is one of the WAG’s finest examples of animal portraiture, and it represents a trend that developed in British painting in the late eighteenth century. The inclusion of animals in landscape painting not only allowed artists to experiment with a new genre of painting, but it also served as a form of social commentary. Images of domesticated animals often acted as references to the stratification of British society, patriarchy, and gendered power relations. After devoting several years to painting animals, Ward turned to large-scale landscape paintings in an attempt to raise his stature as an artist.