John Frederick Herring Snr. is regarded as one of the finest equine and animal artists of the nineteenth century and an important recorder of sporting and rural life in the period. He began his career as a coach painter and driver in Doncaster, allowing him to closely observe the anatomy of horses and develop his natural ability to paint them. He was briefly pupil of Abraham Cooper, R.A. (1787-1868) and gradually caught the attention of wealthy clients, who commissioned him to paint their favourite hunters and racehorses. Many of his racing subjects were reproduced, including 49 published by the Sporting Magazine, earning him wider acclaim among the general public. He spent a period living in Newmarket before settling in London.


From 1840, Herring found success with a range of royal patrons, including the Duc d’Orleans (son of King Louis-Phillipe), HRH the Duchess of Kent and Queen Victoria, who remained a loyal patron for the rest of Herring’s life. His own grey Arabian stallion Imaum was previously owned by Queen Victoria and features as a model in many of his works, including his iconic painting Pharoah’s Chariot Horses (1848).


In 1853 Herring abandoned London in favour of a Georgian house in Meopham Park near Tonbridge in Kent. The change in lifestyle had a corresponding effect on his subject matter, favouring farmyard scenes, domestic animals and depictions of a rural idyll. Herring was immensely popular in his day; in his obituary in the Sporting Magazine, it was said that he ‘first showed the world not only how a thoroughbred horse should be drawn, but made the half-bred bear his part in the pastoral scenes such as canvas had never known before’.


Herring exhibited widely - at the Royal Academy from 1818 to 1865, at the British Institution from 1830 to 1865, and at the Society of British Artists from 1836 to 1852, where he became vice-president in 1842. His work can be found in many important private and public collections, including Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, National Horse Racing Museum and Royal Collection.