William Ward was a city worker in London who was influenced by the writings of Ruskin. He became a member of Ruskin's evening art class at the Working Men's College in London. Ruskin was so impressed by his work that he invited Ward to take some of his classes for him and assist him in teaching his private drawing pupils. He also helped Ward set up another art class in a Working Mens' Club, although this was not a success.
Ruskin continued to support Ward in his artistic training. He sent him to lessons with the Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt and on European tours to study the locations of Turner's watercolours. Ward was one of the first 'copyists' or copier of famous paintings to be employed by Ruskin and he found Ward to be the most successful copyist of Turner's watercolours.
Ward also assisted Ruskin administratively and acted as a public distributer of sets of photographs advocated by Ruskin in his published books. He was however a professional artist in his own right.