A half-length portrait facing to the sitter's left, showing Ward in a midshipman's uniform, c.1750-87. Both arms rest on a rock in front of him; his left hand thrust into his waistcoat. In the background to the left is the fluke of an anchor; a coastal scene is to the right.
After attending the Naval Academy, Portsmouth, 1772–75, James Ward went as a midshipman on Captain Cook’s third voyage and was present in a boat off shore when Cook was killed at Hawaii in 1779. After his return to England he became a lieutenant in 1782 and served in the East Indies under another Cook-voyage veteran, James Burney, until 1786. In 1793 he was commanding the cutter 'Sandwich' and captured two French privateers off the Isles of Scilly that May. By then, however, he had begun suffering from a disabling rheumatic complaint and spent the rest of his life in literary pursuits and amusing friends with his lively conversation (see ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’, vol. 76, p. 985). He died on 28 September 1806, aged 45 and was buried with others of his family at Berechurch, Colchester. His sea chest and a mourning ring commemorating him (JEW0180) are among other items and letters by him in the collection. The painting's attribution to John Webber is by no means certain but, if by him, it probably dates to just after Cook's third voyage since Webber had very short notice to join that.
Presented by Mrs Elizabeth Schuckburgh in 1934, by descent from Ward’s sister Eliza, who married Captain Nicholas Tomlinson.