WARD, James
(b. 1769, London, d. 1859, Cheshunt)

Gordale Scar

Oil on canvas, 332 x 421 cm
Tate Gallery, London

James Ward tried to express his own emotionally charged faith through a masterpiece of natural observation, his gigantic Gordale Scar finished in 1813. Here the towering expanse of rock and thundering cataract, set beneath a stormy sky, takes on a symbolism of its own. The encircling amphitheatre of the Scar becomes a microcosm, and the beasts who graze or lock antlers before it - few of which had actually roamed there since much earlier times - emphasize its primordial state. The white bull who watches over them is probably a very contemporary mark of British resolve in the face of Napoleonic attack.