Samuel Aiken, Sr.

(22 October 1756 - 9 November 1815)

Henry Thomas Alken

(12 October 1785 - 7 April 1851)

British artists Samuel and Henry Alken.

They were scrupulously assembled by the legendary early 19th-century collector and dealer Frank T. Sabin, and reflect the superb tastes and unrivaled eye of this most sophisticated connoisseur.

Samuel Alken and his son Henry were the most prominent members of a successful family of artists, and two of the best-known sporting artists of late 18th and early 19th-century Britain. Samuel's parents had emigrated to England from Denmark, and he built his own artistic career to a great level of fame through his mastery of the quintessential British subject matter: the hunt.

He entered the Royal Academy Schools, London, as a sculptor in 1772. In 1779 he published A New Book of Ornaments Designed and Etched by Samuel Alken, afterwards establishing himself as one of the most competent engravers in the new technique of aquatint, and he won wide acclaim for his many sporting prints. Working in this genre, Alken became one of the most prolific and acclaimed British sporting artists of his day, and passed his skills on to his son. Samuel was responsible for the early art instruction that set his son, Henry Alken, 1785-1851), on a path towards even greater recognition than his own.


Samuel Alken, aqua-tint engraver. Practised his art in London towards the end of the 18th century. He had probably some instruction in architecture, and in 1780, exhibited an architectural design. He produced many views in Great Britain and Ireland, chiefly for the illustration of topographical works, and carried the art of aqua-tint to very high perfection.He published, in 1796, Views in Cumberland and Westmoreland, and Aqua-tint views in North Wales in 1798.

Dictionary of Artists of the English School

Samuel Alken, (fl. 1780–1796), was a draughtsman and engraver, and his aquatint engravings are of high merit. Alken produced plates after Morland, Richard Wilson, Rowlandson, Wheatley, and others.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01, by Ernest Radford; Redgrave's Dict. of Painters, 1872.

View painter's art: Samuel Alken, Sr. (1756-1815) [new window view]

Alternate names for Samuel Alken (the elder):
Alken, Samuel, 1756-1815
Alken, Samuel, Sr. English engraver, 1756-1815
Alken, S. (Samuel), 1756-1815
Alken, Samuel I
Alken, Samuel, I
Alken, Samuel, Senior
Alken, Samuel, fl. 1780-1798

Alkin, Samuel
Alkin, Samuel, 1756-1815
Samuel Alken, Sr.
Samuel I. Alken


Henry Thomas Alken

Henry Thomas Alken (12 October 1785 - 7 April 1851), was an English painter and engraver chiefly known as a caricaturist and illustrator of sporting subjects and coaching scenes. Henry received his training not just from his father, but also from the miniature painter J. T. Beaumont (1774-1851), an experience that endowed him with an accomplished graphic precision. He applied this skill to his flippant and anecdotal early paintings, etchings and watercolors of hunting, coaching, racing and other animal subjects. He was also employed by sporting periodicals as an illustrator, and provided plates for the National Sports of Great Britain (London, 1821), strengthening the market for his work in sporting circles, in particular the notorious clique of wealthy and reckless huntsmen who gathered at Melton Mowbray, Leicester. His most prolific period of painting and drawing occurred between 1816 and 1831.

H. Alken was born in Soho, Westminster, and baptised on 6 November at St James's Church, Piccadilly. He was the third son of Samuel Alken, a sporting artist. Two of his brothers were George and Samuel Alken the Younger, also an artist. In 1789, the Alken family moved from Soho to 2, Francis Street East, Bedford Square.

Young Henry first studied under his father and then with the miniature painter John Thomas Barber Beaumont (1774–1841), also known as J. T. Barber. In 1801, Alken sent a miniature portrait of Miss Gubbins to the Royal Academy Exhibition. He exhibited a second miniature at the Royal Academy before abandoning miniature painting and taking on painting and illustrating. Early in his career, he painted sporting subjects under the name of "Ben Tally-O". Alken married Maria Gordon on 14 October 1809, at St Clement’s Church, Ipswich. On 22 August of the following year later the couple's first son was baptised. Alken went on to father five children, of whom two were artists, Samuel Henry, also a sporting artist, known as Henry Alken junior, and Sefferien junior.

From about 1816, onwards Alken "produced an unending stream of paintings, drawings and engravings of every type of field and other sporting activity," and his soft-ground etchings were often colored by hand. When Alken was 26, he and his young family lived over a shop in Haymarket that belonged to print publisher Thomas McLean of the "Repository of Wit and Humour." McLean paid Alken a daily wage of thirty shillings, considered a good income at the time.

Alken died in April 1851, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. Although fairly affluent for most of his career, he fell on hard times towards the end of his life and was buried at his daughter's expense.

Alken worked in both oil and watercolor and was a skilled etcher. His earliest productions were published anonymously under the signature of "Ben Tallyho", but in 1816, he issued The Beauties & Defects in the Figure of the Horse, comparatively delineated under his own name. From this date until about 1831, he produced many sets of etchings of sporting subjects mostly coloured and sometimes humorous in character, the principal of which were: "Humorous Specimens of Riding" 1821, "Symptoms of being amazed" 1822, "Symptoms of being amused" 1822, "Flowers from Nature" 1823, "A Touch at the Fine Arts" 1824, and "Ideas" 1830. Besides these he published a series of books: Illustrations for Landscape Scenery and Scraps from the Sketch Book of Henry Alken in 1823, New Sketch Book in 1824, Sporting Scrap Book and Shakespeare's Seven Ages in 1827, Sporting Sketches, and in 1831 Illustrations to Popular Songs and Illustrations of Don Quixote, the latter engraved by John Christian Zeitter.

Henry Alken provided the plates picturing hunting, coaching, racing and steeplechasing for The National Sports of Great Britain, (London, 1821). Alken, known as an avid sportsman, is best remembered for his hunting prints, many of which he engraved himself until the late 1830s. (Charles Lane British Racing Prints pp. 75–76). He created prints for the leading sporting printsellers such as S. & J. Fuller, Thomas McLean, and Rudolph Ackermann, and often collaborated with his friend the sporting journalist Charles James Apperley (1779–1843), also known as Nimrod. Nimrod's Life of a Sportsman, with 32 etchings by Alken, was published by Ackermann in 1842. In many of his etchings, Alken explored the comic side of riding and satirized the foibles of aristocrats, much in the tradition of other early 19th century caricaturists such as Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray. One of his best known paintings, "The Belvoir Hunt: Jumping Into And Out Of A Lane", hangs in the Tate Britain and shows one of the oldest of the great foxhound packs in Leicestershire. A collection of his illustrations can be seen in the print department of the British Museum.


Henry Alken: English painter, engraver and acquafortist. Son of artist Samuel Alken, he was specialized in hunting and sporting scenes. In 1801 and 1822, he exposed two portraits at the Royal Academy of London. Alken explores the comic side of riding in a series of prints depicting the follies and foibles of aristocrats on their weekend outings. He worked in London and the provinces and was prolific in a variety of media, including painting, etching and watercolor. Trained as a miniature painter, his works always had a graphic precision. He was employed by sporting periodicals as an illustrator and provided plates for the National Sports of Great Britain (London, 1821) [Benezit I, 116]


ALKEN, HENRY (fl. 1816–1831), draftsman and engraver, is said to have been originally huntsman, stud-groom, or trainer to the Duke of Beaufort. His earliest productions were published anonymously under the signature of ‘Ben Tallyho;’ but in 1816 he issued with his name The Beauties & Defects in the Figure of the Horse comparatively delineated. From this date until about 1831 he produced many sets of etchings of sporting subjects, mostly coloured, and sometimes humorous in character, the principal of which were ‘Humorous Specimens of Riding,’ 1821-3; ‘Symptoms of being amazed,’ 1822; ‘Symptoms of being amused,’ 1822; ‘Flowers from Nature,’ 1823-5; ‘A Touch at the Fine Arts,’ 1824; and ‘Ideas,’ 1830. Besides these, he published in 1821 ‘The National Sports of Great Britain,’ ‘Illustrations for Landscape Scenery,’ and ‘Scraps from the Sketch-Book of Henry Alken;’ in 1823, ‘New Sketch-Book;’ in 1824, ‘Sporting Scrap-Book’ and ‘Shakespeare's Seven Ages;’ in 1827, ‘Sporting Sketches;’ and, in 1831, ‘Illustrations to Popular Songs’ and ‘Illustrations of Don Quixote,’ the latter engraved by John Christian Zeitter. The fertility of Alken's pencil was amazing; but the idea of it might be fictitiously enhanced if the fact were not borne in mind that he left two or three sons—one of whom was named Henry—all artists, and all sporting artists, who have been incessantly painting, lithographing, aquatinting, and etching for the sporting publishers and for private patrons of the turf. In all Alken's works there is a freedom of handling and a happy choice of subject which rendered them very popular in their day. One of his drawings in water-colours, ‘Fox-Hunting,’ is in the South Kensington Museum.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01, by Robert Edmund Graves; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xi. 516, xii. 155; Blackwood's Edin. Mag. 1824, xv. 219; Alken's works in Print-Room, British Museum..

Alken, Henry, draftsman and engraver. He was well known by his numerous facile delineations, sometimes humorous in character, of field-sports, races, and games. He published The Beauties and Defects of the Figure of the Horse, 1816; Scraps from his Sketch-Book, 1821; Symptoms of being Amused, 1822; Illustrations of Popular Songs, 1823; The Art and Practice of Etching, 1849; Jorrock's Jaunts and Jollitie, 1869.

Dictionary of Artists of the English School

View painter's art: Henry Thomas Alken (1785-1851)[new window view]

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