Artwork of the Month

May 2013

Charles Daniel Ward, British, 1872-1935
The Progress of Spring, 1905
Oil on canvas, 36 x 72 in.
Signed and dated lower right: Chas. D. Ward 1905
DM 57

On View at the Museum Gift Shop

A painter of portraits, landscapes, and figural compositions, Charles Daniel Ward was born in Somerset and educated at the Royal College of Art in London. Ward exhibited his paintings regularly at the Royal Academy, where he showed The Progress of Spring in 1905. In this large, allegorical canvas, Ward suggests the season of abundant growth and renewed life with a procession of young maidens gathering flowers along a carpeted forest path. The progress of life is implied by the budding courtship between the coy maiden and her persistent suitor in the center. This symbolism is reinforced by the ewe and her three lambs grazing just behind them, to the left.

Ward’s vision for this version was possibly the Roman writer Virgil’s series of pastoral poems collectively called The Georgics: “When Winter’s rage abates, when cheerful hours awakes the Spring and Spring awakes the flowers, on green turf they fearless limbs display and celebrate the mighty Mother’s Day…” Another contemporary likely source for the artist’s painting is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, also entitled The Progress of Spring and published in 1889. Tennyson’s poem describes the arrival of spring in a wintry landscape, personified, as in Ward’s painting, by the figure of a maiden:

The frost-bead melts upon her golden hair;
Her mantle, slowly greening in the Sun,
Now wraps her close
On that new life that gems the hawthorn line;
Thy gay lent-lilies wave and put them by,
And out once more in varnish’d glory shine
Thy stars of celandine …