WARD, William (1766-1826) after Richard Morton PAYE
Children Throwing Snow Balls
London: Published by John Raphael Smith, 8 December 1785. Mezzotint. Image size (including text): 17 1/8 x 21 1/2 inches. Sheet size: 19 1/8 x 24 1/2 inches.
A fine image of childhood after Paye who 'especially excelled in painting children, both as single portraits and in groups' (DNB)
One odd feature of late 18th century British genre paintings and prints from our present point of view was the discovery of children as suitable subjects of interest. Previously, children rarely appeared in paintings usually as participants in a religious or mythological scene, and not as children per se. Children as they were as opposed to future adults presented a problem for many artists: how to realistically capture childish activities, childish exuberance, childish despair? One of the most successful children artists was R. M. Paye (d. 1821) as demonstrated in this superb snowball fight in which six children each exemplify aspects of childhood experience: fear, joy, capriciousness, pity and so forth. The random arrangement of figures caught in mid-motion, unposed and without self-consciousness enhance the child-like feeling of fun and freedom. It's a story without moral or ulterior meaning. Richard Morton Paye was a renowned painter, who gained a noted reputation through his delicate paintings of children and his accomplished portraits. This lovely print by Ward is a wonderful example of Paye's best work, it shows the talents of the painter as well as the proficiency of the engraver. William Ward is remembered as one of the most accomplished engravers of his day. He produced some of the most beautiful prints of the period, and his delicate engravings epitomize the style and sentiment of the age. Ward was primarily a mezzotint engraver but he also worked in stipple, executing hauntingly delicate prints that capture the soul and character of their subject. He studied under John Raphael Smith and quickly became one of his most distinguished pupils, incorporating his masters' delicate technique into his own distinctive style. Along with his brother James, William was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and soon earned the privilege of becoming mezzotint engraver to the prince regent. For any print connoisseur the work of William Ward epitomizes the best of English printmaking. His fine technical skill and inspired artistic imagination combine to create enduring images that speak of the taste and beauty of the age.