John Ferneley Snr 1782-1860

Born the son of a Leicestershire master wheelwright, John Ferneley Snr. became the leading sporting painter of his day. His precocious talent was recognised by John Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland when he caught sight of Ferneley's paintings on the foreboards of local wagons that had been repaired by his father.


The Duke arranged for Ferneley to be apprenticed to another Leicestershire artist, Ben Marshall at his studio in London. Ferneley quickly established himself, exhibiting his first picture at the Royal Academy in 1806. By 1814 he had moved back to Leicestershire, settling in Melton Mowbray. He visited London annually and continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy throughout his life, but his busy account books of 1807–1860 show that such was his success, Ferneley did not need to look to London for his market.


Initially, he got an apprenticeship until 1801 and learnt from his father, who was a master wheelwright. Ferneley was inspired and encouraged to take up painting by John Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland. Accordingly, he shifted to London, and decided to study under the sporting artist Benjamin Marshall. During training with Marshall, Ferneley joined the Royal Academy School.


Ferneley's work and art reflected hunting when it was highly fashionable. Demanded horses sold quite easily for 200 guineas and most riders had at least ten in their stables. His work enthralled a number of seniors who sought out his art after. Fernely's patrons include many Royals and personalities such as Beau Brummel and the Count d'Orsay. On a daily basis, he was commissioned to paint the prominent and well-known Quorn, Belvoir, and Cottesmore hunts.


His contemporaries all contributed to the painter's fee and later on drew lots to determine the winner. Ferneley mastered painting "scurries", which are panoramic paintings showing a sequence of events. He warmly befriended Sir Francis Grant and assisted him with the artwork of horses while Grant in return lent him a helping hand with figure painting. In this way they worked together on a number of artworks. Ferneley's signature was signed very tenderly with a pin head in the wet paint and sometimes hidden on a fence, stable door or in an unexpected corner of the painting. His signature is deftly distinguished from that of his son, John Jr, who used to sign heavily in black.


During 1810 and 1812 he paid a visit to Ireland two times more, carrying out a lot of commissioned artworks for wealthy Irish patrons. Ferneley's fathered six children with his first wife (who passed away in 1836) - three of whom also became skilful artists. Ferneley is believed to have kept a set of account books dating between 1807 and 1860; the detailed and comprehensive notes providing fruitful material for later historians. John Ferneley College, based in Melton Mowbray, is named after him. He died in 1960.