Coloured mezzotintpublished 1 June 1806
About the work
The coloured mezzotint print of ‘The Shepherds’ shows a landscape with flocks of sheep in fields around farm buildings. A man, woman and young girl, carrying bundles and baskets, are talking to two shepherds, who sit under a tree in the left foreground. One of the shepherds points to the road, as though giving directions, while the other is propped on one elbow with a sheepdog beside him.
This rural scene was engraved by printmaker William Ward, after an original work by George Morland. In 1786 Morland was lodging with Ward in Kensal Green, London. He had probably met the engraver through print publisher and engraver John Raphael Smith. In September that year the artist married Ward’s sister, Anne, while Ward married Morland’s sister, Maria, the following month. The two couples lived together on the High Street in Marylebone for a few months, before Morland and his wife moved to Great Portland Street. Morland continued to relocate regularly in an attempt to escape his creditors. However, the productive partnership between Morland and Ward continued for most of the artist’s career and Ward engraved almost 70 plates after works by Morland.
About the artist
William Ward was the son of James Ward, manager for a fruit and cider merchant. His younger brother, also named James Ward was a painter. Ward held the position of mezzotint engraver to the Duke of York from 1804 and engraver to the Prince of Wales from 1813. The following year he became an Associate Engraver of the Royal Academy. He died in 1826 at his home in Warren Street, London.
George Morland was born in London, the son of painter, engraver and art dealer Henry Robert Morland. He was apprenticed to his father before studying at the Royal Academy Schools. Morland first exhibited work at the Royal Academy when he was aged about ten and went on to be a regular exhibitor there and at The Society of Artists of Great Britain. In 1780, the first of numerous engravings after his work were published. Morland’s work had a wide appeal and was often copied or even faked. His last years were plagued by excessive drinking, debts and poor health. Although he continued to paint to pay his creditors, the quality of his work declined. He died in a bailiff's lodging-house in Clerkenwell, London, reportedly of a brain fever.