Biography of Charles W. Ward (1900-1962)
By Anna E. Karlberg Ward (1911-1996)


An artist of national repute, Charles William Ward of Carversville, Pennsylvania, was widely admired for his achievements in many media, particularly in the field of mural painting. He also did landscapes and portraits, and the aggregate of his work in all fields was large. His genius was recognized in many one-man shows in cities across the country, and representations in the permanent collections of important museums. Mr.Ward was equally appreciated by his friends and neighbors for his great personal warmth and kindness.

The son of Frederick Ira and Mary Ellen (Glover) Ward, he was born at Trenton, New Jersey, on January 24, 1900. His father, who was born January 26, 1875, and died October 30, 1942, was a machinist, and a direct descendant of early Dutch settlers in this country. His father, the grandfather of Charles William Ward, fought in the New Jersey Engineers of the Union Army during the Civil War; and he and his wife, Ursula (Fisk) Ward, who proudly claimed some American Indian ancestry, operated their own boat and mules on the Morris Canal in New Jersey. Charles W. Ward's mother, who came to this country when she was sixteen, was the daughter of John Glover, who died at an early age in his native England.

Mr. Ward received his early education in Trenton, New Jersey, and in 1916 he began taking mechanical drawing courses in the evening at the School of Industrial Arts there, while working in a watch factory during the day, an arrangement which he maintained until 1917. In that year, he went to work on a full-time basis for the American Steel and Wire Company in Trenton, where he mastered the machinist trade, remaining with this company until 1924. For a period during the latter part of those years, he also attended the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, and from 1924 until 1926, he was at the school on a full-time basis, graduating from the Day Fine Arts course in 1926. During the summer of 1924, he took a manual arts course at Rutgers College.

From 1926 until 1931, Mr. Ward was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, at which he studied painting and sculpture. There he won the Thompson Prize for Composition; the Lea Award for Draughtsmanship; and, in 1930, the Cresson European Traveling Scholarship, which enabled him to go abroad and study in Great Britain, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland.

From 1931 until his death in 1962, Mr. Ward devoted his time exclusively to painting, with the exception of the years 1942-1945 during World War II, when he returned to the American Steel and Wire Company in Trenton, New Jersey, as a machinist. He had lived in Carversville, Pennsylvania, since 1932, and maintained a studio there for thirty years.

His versatile talent encompassed portrait, mural and landscapes, in watercolors and oils. He also did lithography, etchings and pastel drawings. Among the foremost artists in the Bucks County area of Pennsylvania, he drew his inspiration from the surrounding scene there, and from painting trips to Mexico, the first in 1939, and the second, with his family, in 1954.

His mural work began in 1935, when he executed his "Progress of Industry" mural in the Trenton, New Jersey, Post Office, as the nation's first Post Office mural under the Public Works of Art Project. In 1937 he completed two others in the same building, entitled "Rural Delivery", and "The Second Battle of Trenton". Later large works were "Cotton Picking", in the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, Post Office, and two murals (now lost) which adorn the walls of the Bucks County Playhouse Inn, at New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Professor Francis J. Quirk, head of the Department of Fine Arts at Lehigh University, said of Mr. Ward's work in 1960, during a group show on the Lehigh campus:

"Charles Ward, rearing back, godlike in his secure opinions, hurls his social commentaries like justified thunderbolts. 'Why?', 'Sorrow' and 'Millwrights' are dissertations as clearly as the works of Goya, Daumier and Rivera. 'Nor may it be implied that their artistic merit suffers for their messages. Craftsmanship and content were well grasped before he received the Cresson traveling scholarship. (His) contemporary-type canvases originate as the expression of a profound humanist, involved with his time and fellow man. They embrace international themes rather than local problems, becoming a part of evolving socio-political concepts.

'In the area of portraiture, Mr. Ward excels in the handling of representation of many-sided characters. His heads are uncomplexed by fad or style of interpretation. They are clear and clean; opinionated, to be sure, but none the less direct and reflective of the integrity which distinguishes the intelligent, well-trained artist that Mr.Ward is."

Mr. Ward's first one-man show was held at the Croyne & Lowndes Gallery, in New York in 1934-1935, the first of many in his career, other exclusive exhibitions of his work having been held over the years in Raleigh, North Carolina; Trenton, New Jersey; the Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania; Ferargil Galleries, New York City; W & J. Sloane, Beverly Hills, California; Crest Gallery, New Hope, Pennsylvania; Lambertville House, Lambertville, New Jersey; and the Scofield Gallery, Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

His numerous group show exhibits included Philadelphia Arts Festival; New Jersey State Museum; Cayuga State Museum of History and Art, Auburn, New York; New Hope Historical Society, New Hope, Pennsylvania; Whitney Museum, New York; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the John A. Lee Memorial Cultural Center, Philadelphia.

In addition, he exhibited annually for twenty-five years at the Phillips Mill Art Show in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and was a regular exhibitor in group shows in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and in Pennington, Princeton and Trenton, all in New Jersey.

His work hangs in the permanent collections of the Scranton Museum; and the New Jersey State Museum. In addition, many noted private collections contain examples of his paintings in one or more of his chosen media.

Active as a teacher of art, Mr. Ward was a part-time instructor at the School of Industrial Arts/Trenton Junior College, Trenton, New Jersey, from 1946 until 1948, and again from 1959 until 1962, teaching the life class and advanced painting. He was a member of the New Hope Art Associates, a group no longer in existence; the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Trenton-Morrisville Art Group. His church was the Episcopalian.

He was honored by the Bucks County Traveler, a monthly magazine published in the county, in 1958, when that periodical used a picture of him in his studio on its cover, and featured him in an article entitled "The Wonderful World of Charlie Ward". The author, Jack Rosen, said of him:

".the wonderful world of Charlie Ward, a world of warmth, color, excitement and vitality, where life is stripped of its non-essentials and living comes first."

After quoting Mr. Ward's feeling on art -" 'People should look at paintings without inhibitions. They should learn to trust their judgment. (and) they should not be afraid to say so. There is nothing mysterious about art.'" - Mr. Rosen went on to say:

"In a time when success is often measured in terms of material goods and incomprehensibility sometimes seems an end in itself, the simple life and the clear, straightforward statements of artist Charlie Ward seem out of place.

"For here is work that touches at the very heart of life, dealing with the simple things, the ordinary, the everyday, bringing to them an understanding rare in a day when neuroses are the norm and shock value is more important than good painting."

Charles William Ward was married at Trenton, New Jersey, on July 4, 1942, to Anna Elizabeth (Karlberg), daughter of Isaac and Gerda (Widing) Karlberg, both of whom were born in Sweden. Mrs. Ward's father was a blacksmith, Mr. and Mrs. Ward became the parents of two daughters: 1. Kristina Maria, who was born October 18, 1943, and is a musician. 2. Mary Ellen, an artist, who was born December 4, 1945.

Mr. Ward died of a heart attack in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 7, 1962. In an article in the Bucks County Gazette, staff writer Charlotte Ganz, a close friend, said of him:

"For several days after his death, people in the Carversville area had a shocked, hurt look. They had lost something - Charlie's eager burst of conversation at the post office, his warm interest in the rest of the world, his ability to make others feel they mattered. Thinking of all this, I wonder what was the greatest accomplishment, painting such beautiful canvases, being, as he so obviously was, such a delightful and kindly father and husband, or the gift of touching and lifting the hearts of those people with whom he had any contact."

"Encyclopedia of American Biography", Vol. XXXV, Edward N. Dodge, Editor, p. 90-92, Published by The American Historical Company, Inc., 1966, New York, West Palm Beach.