Leslie Ward

Last updated


Leslie Ward
Portrait of Leslie Ward.jpg
Ward in 1915
Leslie Matthew Ward

(1851-11-21)21 November 1851
London, England
Died15 May 1922(1922-05-15) (aged 70)
London, England
Known for Portraits and caricatures
Notable work Vanity Fair Caricatures

Sir Leslie Matthew Ward (21 November 1851 – 15 May 1922) was a British portrait artist and caricaturist who over four decades painted 1,325 portraits which were regularly published by Vanity Fair , under the pseudonyms "Spy" and "Drawl". The portraits were produced as watercolours and turned into chromolithographs for publication in the magazine. These were then usually reproduced on better paper and sold as prints. Such was his influence in the genre that all Vanity Fair caricatures are sometimes referred to as "Spy cartoons" regardless of who the artist actually was.


Early portraits, almost always full-length (judges at the bench being the main exception), had a stronger element of caricature and usually distorted the proportions of the body, with a very large head and upper body supported on much smaller lower parts. Later, as he became more accepted by his social peers, and in order not to offend potential sitters, his style developed into what he called "characteristic portraits". This was less of a caricature and more of an actual portrait of the subject, using realistic body proportions. [1]


"Tommy" Bowles, founder of Vanity Fair, caricatured by Ward in 1889 Thomas Gibson Bowles, Vanity Fair, 1889-07-13.jpg
"Tommy" Bowles, founder of Vanity Fair , caricatured by Ward in 1889

Ward was one of eight children of artists Edward Matthew Ward and Henrietta Ward, and the great-grandson of the artist James Ward. Although they had the same surname before marriage, Ward's parents were not related. Both were well-known history painters. His mother came from a line of painters and engravers: her father was the engraver and miniature painter George Raphael Ward; her grandfather the celebrated animal painter James Ward. She was niece of the portrait painter John Jackson and great-niece of the painter George Morland. Both parents had studios in their homes in Slough and Kensington in London, where they regularly entertained the London artistic and literary elite. Ward's father was a gifted mimic who entertained Charles Dickens and other eminent guests. Although they never gave their son formal training, they and their artistic friends encouraged the young Ward to draw, paint, and sculpt. [2]

Ward started caricaturing while still at school at Eton College, using his classmates and school masters as subjects. In 1867 his bust of his brother was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. At school Ward had been an unexceptional student, and after he left Eton in 1869 his father encouraged him to train as an architect. Ward was too afraid to tell his father that he wanted to be an artist and he spent an unhappy year in the office of the architect Sydney Smirke, who was a family friend. The artist W. P. Frith spoke to Ward's father on his behalf, and after a great deal of arguing he finally agreed to support his son's training as an artist, and Ward entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1871. In 1873 he sent some of his work to Thomas Gibson Bowles, four years after Vanity Fair was founded. This led to him being hired to replace "Ape" (Carlo Pellegrini), who had temporarily left the magazine after falling out with Bowles. As his nom de crayon, Ward suggested to Bowles that he use the name "Spy", meaning "to observe secretly, or to discover at a distance or in concealment". [2] Ward's Spy signature was similar to Pellegrini's stylised Ape.

Vanity Fair

Leslie Ward caricatured in 1889 by 'Pal' Leslie Ward Vanity Fair 23 November 1889.jpg
Leslie Ward caricatured in 1889 by 'Pal'

Ward drew 1,325 cartoons for Vanity Fair between 1873 and 1911, many of which captured the personality of his subjects. His portraits of royalty, nobility, and women, however, were over-sympathetic, if not sycophantic. Later, as he became a member of Society himself, he became even more of a complimentary portraitist, moving from caricature to what he termed "characteristic portraits", a charge he acknowledged in his autobiography Forty Years of "Spy", published in 1915. [1]

Ward worked methodically, often from memory, after observing his 'victims' at the racecourse, in the law courts, in church, in the academy lecture theatre, or in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament. Sometimes they came to his studio to pose in their robes or uniforms. A caricaturist, Ward believed, was born, not made. He observed, "A good memory, an eye for detail, and a mind to appreciate and grasp the whole atmosphere and peculiarity of the 'subject' are of course essentials." [2] A caricature, he noted, should never depend on a physical defect, nor should it be forced. "If I could sum up the art in a sentence it would be that caricature should be a comic impression with a kindly touch, and always devoid of vulgarity." [3]

In an 1897 interview given by Oliver Armstrong Fry (editor of Vanity Fair) to Frank Banfield of Cassell's Magazine, it was reported that Ward received between £300 and £400 per portrait. Ward was the most famous Vanity Fair artist; indeed, the whole genre of caricatures are often referred to as "Spy cartoons". He worked for Vanity Fair for over forty years, producing more than half of the 2,387 caricatures published.

Later years

Ward's clubs included the Arts, the Orleans, the Fielding, the Lotus, the Punch Bowl, and the Beefsteak, where he was one of the original members. There he sketched many of his victims. In 1899, years after her father had refused him permission to marry her, Ward married the society hostess Judith Mary Topham-Watney, the only daughter of Major Richard Topham of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. They had one daughter, Sidney. [1]

Ward's last cartoon for Vanity Fair appeared in June 1911 as he had recently begun to contribute his "characteristic portraits" to The World and Mayfair. He supplemented his income by painting portraits. In 1918 he was knighted. [4] Ward prophesied that "when the history of the Victorian era comes to be written in true perspective, the most faithful mirror and record of representative men and spirit of their times will be sought and found in Vanity Fair". [2] After a nervous breakdown Ward died suddenly of heart failure at 4 Dorset Square, Marylebone, London on 15 May 1922 and was buried on 18 May at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

About 300 of his original watercolours for Vanity Fair are in the National Portrait Gallery, London. [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caricature</span> Simplified or exaggerated artistic image

A caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way through sketching, pencil strokes, or other artistic drawings. Caricatures can be either insulting or complimentary, and can serve a political purpose, be drawn solely for entertainment, or for a combination of both. Caricatures of politicians are commonly used in editorial cartoons, while caricatures of movie stars are often found in entertainment magazines.

Events from the year 1873 in art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Tissot</span> French painter and illustrator (1836–1902)

Jacques Joseph Tissot, anglicized as James Tissot, was a French painter and illustrator. He was a successful painter of fashionable, modern scenes and society life in Paris before moving to London in 1871. A friend and mentor of the Impressionist painter Edgar Degas, Tissot also painted scenes and figures from the Bible.

Edward Sorel is an American illustrator, caricaturist, cartoonist, graphic designer and author. His work is known for its storytelling, its left-liberal social commentary, its criticism of reactionary right-wing politics and organized religion. Formerly a regular contributor to The Nation, New York Magazine and The Atlantic, his work is today seen more frequently in Vanity Fair. He has been hailed by The New York Times as "one of America's foremost political satirists". As a lifelong New Yorker, a large portion of his work interprets the life, culture and political events of New York City. There is also a large body of work which is nostalgic for the stars of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood when Sorel was a youth. Sorel is noted for his wavy pen-and-ink style, which he describes as "spontaneous direct drawing".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Ward (artist)</span> British painter and engraver

James Ward was a British painter, particularly of animals, and an engraver.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carlo Pellegrini (caricaturist)</span> Italian painter

Carlo Pellegrini, who did much of his work under the pseudonym of Ape, was an Italian artist who served from 1869 to 1889 as a caricaturist for Vanity Fair magazine, a leading journal of London society. He was born in Capua, then in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. His father came from an ancient land-owning family, while his mother was allegedly descended from the Medici. His work for the magazine made his reputation and he became its most influential artist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Levine</span> American caricaturist (1926–2009)

David Levine was an American artist and illustrator best known for his caricatures in The New York Review of Books. Jules Feiffer has called him "the greatest caricaturist of the last half of the 20th Century".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Montagu Butler</span> English academic

Henry Montagu Butler was an English academic and clergyman, who served as headmaster of Harrow School (1860–85), Dean of Gloucester (1885–86) and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge (1886–1918).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ralph Barton</span> American artist

Ralph Waldo Emerson Barton was an American artist best known for his cartoons and caricatures of actors and other celebrities. Though his work was heavily in demand through the 1920s and is often considered to epitomize the era, his personal life was troubled by mental illness, and he was nearly forgotten soon after his suicide, shortly before his fortieth birthday.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henrietta Ward</span> English painter

Henrietta Mary Ada Ward was a British historical and genre painter of the Victorian era and the early twentieth century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour</span> Iranian cartoonist and art director (born 1976)

Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour is an Iranian cartoonist, comic artist, and art director. He holds a bachelor of painting from the Azad University of Tehran (1378).

Vincent Brooks, Day & Son was a major British lithographic firm most widely known for reproducing the weekly caricatures published in Vanity Fair magazine. The company was formed in 1867 when Vincent Brooks bought the name, good will and some of the property of Day & Son Ltd, which had gone into liquidation that year. The firm reproduced artwork and illustrations and went on to print many of the iconic London Underground posters of the twenties and thirties before being wound up in 1940.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liborio Prosperi</span> Italian artist (1854–1928)

Liborio Prosperi ('Lib') a.k.a.Liberio Prosperi, was an Italian-born artist who belonged to a group of international artists producing caricatures for the British Vanity Fair magazine. He contributed 55 caricatures between 1885 and 1903, signed 'Lib', and concentrating mainly on the racing set.

<i>Vanity Fair</i> (British magazine) British magazine, published 1868–1914

Vanity Fair was a British weekly magazine that was published from 1868 to 1914. Founded by Thomas Gibson Bowles in London, the magazine included articles on fashion, theatre, current events as well as word games and serial fiction. The cream of the period’s "society magazines", it is best known for its witty prose and caricatures of famous people of Victorian and Edwardian society, including artists, athletes, royalty, statesmen, scientists, authors, actors, business people and scholars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Melchiorre Delfico (caricaturist)</span> Italian artist and musician

Baron Melchiorre De Filippis Delfico was an Italian artist, composer, singer, conductor, writer, librettist and a master of the Neapolitan art of caricature who inspired, among others, Carlo Pellegrini.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Dighton</span> English painter

Robert Dighton was born c.1752 in London and died there in 1814. An English portrait painter, printmaker and caricaturist, he was the founder of a dynasty of artists who followed in his footsteps.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adriano Cecioni</span> Italian painter

Adriano Cecioni was an Italian artist, caricaturist, and critic associated with the Macchiaioli group.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wallace Hester</span> British artist

Robert Wallace Hester (1866-1942) was a British artist, engraver, and caricaturist who made witty illustrations of famous people for Vanity Fair. He used the abbreviations and pseudonyms 'W. Hester', 'Hester', 'WH' and 'WH-'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Tennyson Reed</span> English political cartoonist and illustrator

Edward Tennyson Reed (1860–1933) was an English political cartoonist and illustrator, primarily known for his cartoons in Punch Magazine.

Franz Caspar Hugo Goedecker was a German wine merchant and artist who settled in England.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Peter Mellini (2004) "Ward, Sir Leslie [Spy] (1851–1922)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780198614128. doi : 10.1093/ref:odnb/36735
  2. 1 2 3 4 Leslie Ward (1915), Forty Years of "Spy", London: Chatto and Windus. ISBN   1112549951.
  3. R. T. Matthews (June–July 1976), "Spy", British History Illustrated, 2, pp. 50–57
  4. Margaret E. Wood (2010). "A Tale of Two Knights". Chemical Heritage Magazine. 28 (1). Retrieved 22 March 2018.