Sir Leslie Matthew Ward (21 November 1851 – 15 May 1922 London) was a British portrait artist and caricaturist who over four decades painted 1,325 portraits which were regularly published by Vanity Fair, under the pseudonyms "Spy" and "Drawl". The portraits were produced as watercolours and turned into chromolithographs for publication in the magazine. These were then usually reproduced on better paper and sold as prints. Such was his influence in the genre that all Vanity Fair caricatures are sometimes referred to as "Spy cartoons" regardless of who the artist actually was.
Early portraits, almost always full-length (judges at the bench being the main exception), had a stronger element of caricature and usually distorted the proportions of the body, with a very large head and upper body supported on much smaller lower parts. Later, as he became socially accepted in the society in which he moved to gain access to his subjects, and not wishing to cause offence, his style developed into what he called "characteristic portraits", being less of a caricature and more of an actual portrait of the subject, using realistic body proportions.
Ward drew 1,325 cartoons for Vanity Fair between 1873 and 1911, many of which captured the personality of his subjects. His portraits of royalty, nobility, and women, however, were over-sympathetic, if not sycophantic. Later, as he became a member of Society himself, he became even more of a complimentary portraitist, moving from caricature to what he termed "characteristic portraits", a charge he acknowledged in his autobiography Forty Years of "Spy", published in 1915.
Ward worked methodically, often from memory, after observing his 'victims' at the racecourse, in the law courts, in church, in the university lecture theatre, or in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament. Sometimes they came to his studio to pose in their robes or uniforms. A caricaturist, Ward believed, was born, not made. He observed, "A good memory, an eye for detail, and a mind to appreciate and grasp the whole atmosphere and peculiarity of the 'subject' are of course essentials." A caricature, he noted, should never depend on a physical defect, nor should it be forced. "If I could sum up the art in a sentence it would be that caricature should be a comic impression with a kindly touch, and always devoid of vulgarity."
In an 1897 interview given by Oliver Armstrong Fry (editor of Vanity Fair) to Frank Banfield of Cassell's Magazine, it was reported that Ward received a sum of between £300 and £400 for a portrait. Ward was the most famous Vanity Fair artist; indeed, the whole genre tends to be named after him, the caricatures often being referred to as "Spy cartoons". He worked for Vanity Fair for over forty years, producing more than half of the 2,387 caricatures published.