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Gordale Scar is a bank of limestone cliffs near Settle, Yorkshire. Ward painted this picture for Lord Ribblesdale, a local landowner. He emphasised the height and scale of the cliffs by subtly manipulating the perspective. In the foreground he shows deer and cattle, including a white bull from the (originally wild) Chillingham herd, who appears to guard the cleft of Gordale Beck. Working in the last years of the Napoleonic wars, Ward aimed to depict a national landscape, primordial and unchanging, defended by ‘John Bull’ in animal form. His painting also epitomised the awe-inspiring qualities of the fashionable ‘Sublime’ landscape.

March 2010