James Ward was a great colourist, a highly skilled draughtsman, printmaker and was also an outstanding animal painter. He is viewed as one of the leading artists of the British Romantic movement. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1811 and produced thousands of works in an array of media and subjects from landscapes, portraits, animal studies, to genre and history paintings. As stated by the author Edward. J. Nygren his works reveal ‘… an extraordinary range of visual and emotional expression … both the ordinary and the unusual engaged Ward’s eye. Whether rag mops or ragweed, crumbling barns or decaying ruins, gnarled trees or craggy men, trotting horses or sleeping Cossacks-nothing escaped his notice’. Using his rapid brushstrokes he was able to bring life into his works.
As can be seen in this work of Aberdulais Mill which is situated on the River Dulais, Aberdulais near Neath in South Wales he was a Romantic painter and one can see that he was a master in the portrayal of light. His attention to detail in this work is beyond compare and his great expertise in painting the animal form is plain to see.
Aberdulais Mill drew a number of artists to record its picturesque setting including the great artist J.M.W. Turner in 1796. Since 1584 power had been drawn from this waterfall when it was used in the manufacturing of copper which ceased in the 17th century. It was later used for corn-milling and later in the production of tinplate works. Ward had an eclectic style for his influences varied from Classical Artists to Old Masters and contemporary painters. He also created works such as his masterpiece ‘Gordale Scar’, from 1815 in search of the sublime.