Richard Barrett Davis

(1782 - 13 March 1854)

Animal painter, was born at Watford, Hertfordshire, in 1782. His father was huntsman to the royal harriers. George III. took notice of some of his drawings, and placed him under Sir William Beechey, R.A. [q. v.] At nineteen he became a student of the Royal Academy. He first exhibited in 1802, sending a landscape to the academy. For fifty years from that time he was a very constant exhibitor. To the academy he sent 70 pictures, to the British Institute 57, and to the Suffolk Street Exhibition 141. He last exhibited in 1853. He took early to animal painting. In 1806, he sent to the academy ‘Mares and Foals from the Royal Stud at Windsor,’ and ‘The Portrait of an Old Hunter’ in 1814, ‘Going to Market’ in 1821, a ‘Horse Fair’ in 1831, ‘Travellers attacked by Wolves.’ In that year he was appointed animal painter to William IV., and painted the cavalcade which formed the coronation procession of that monarch. In 1829 he joined the Suffolk Street Society, and was one of its most constant exhibitors.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Graves's Dict. of Artists; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 14, by Ernest Radford]

William IV’s coronation procession proceeded down Constitution Hill at 9.00 am on 8 September 1831, on its way to Westminster Abbey. This monstrous frieze (nearly four metres long) shows this moment and was commissioned by William IV.

The first part was exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1832, where the accuracy of the record, including individual portraits, was much admired, though one critic wondered if the King intended to ‘build a national gallery for Mr. R. B. Davis’s long-winded discourse’. There is no record of where the King did intend to display the work, though it is recorded at Buckingham Palace in 1875. There is no indication of how the artist originally intended to divide the work, if at all. It is now in ten sections.


Animal and landscape painter, was born at Watford. He studied under Evans of Eton, under Beechey, and in the schools of the Royal Academy, where he first exhibited in 1802. He joined the Society of British Artists in 1829, and was appointed animal painter to William IV. in 1831. Amongst his works are:
'Mares and Foals from the Royal Stud,' 1806;
'Going to Market,' 1814;
'Horse Fair,' 1821;
'Travellers attacked by Wolves,' 1831 Near Virginia Water (South Kensington).

[Bryan's dictionary of painters and engravers, 1903] div


The artist being himself proprietor of the work, it would seem that this was his first venture in publication and that the engraver shared the speculation. This very fine example of mezzotint engraving is "by permission humbly dedicated to H.R. H. the Duke of Cumberland by his devoted and very humble servant, R. B. Davis." The plate measures 28 inches by 21 inches. [Depicted in Animal Painters of England, 1900]

Having proved his artistic ability it was only to be expected that his family connections should have brought him renown in the country hunted by the Royal hounds; and he soon numbered among his patrons many of the best known sportsmen of the day, including King George III., the Duke of York, the Duke of Cumberland, the Dukes of Beaufort, Grafton and Richmond, the Earl of Egremont, and Sir F. Bourgeois. Time brought him distinctions both significant of his talent and remunerative; in 1831 he was appointed animal painter to King William IV., and in 1842, he received the patronage of Her Majesty and the Prince Consort.

In 1813 he executed a picture of "The King's Harriers," with portraits of the huntsman and whipper-in on horseback and thirteen couples of hounds grouped about them; this work was, no doubt, commissioned in view of the abolition of the Royal harrier pack, as it was given up in April of the same year. The picture was engraved, and the print bears dedication to General Manners. It may be added that in 1824, King George IV. re-established the Royal Harriers, purchasing drafts from Mr. Loraine Smith, of Enderby Hall, Leicestershire, and thirteen couples of the pack sent up to Tattersall's by Lord Maynard's executors. Charles Davis, who had succeeded George Sharpe as huntsman of the Royal Buckhounds in 1822, undertook to hunt the harriers on non-staghunting days. George IV. was a keen sportsman and appreciated the joys of pace; when Prince of Wales he accepted a Mastership of Foxhounds during his residence at Critchill, in Dorsetshire. His father was fond of the chase, and in 1780, established a pack of foxhounds with Sharpe as huntsman; but His Majesty's weight was against him in the field, and, according to Lord Ribblesdale, he was not in the habit of tempting Providence by trying big places or of riding too hard.

In 1822, Davis painted for the Duke of York a portrait of his horse, "Moses", which in "Tom Goodisson's hands" had won the Derby of that year. His Royal Highness is said to have been a good judge of a horse, and "Moses" he bred himself out of "Sister to Castensa" by "Whalebone". This picture was shown at the Academy of 1823; an engraving of the work by J. Scott was published in vol. xi. of the Sporting Magazine.

MOSES was a b. c. bred by H.R.H. the Duke of York in 1819. He was got by Whalebone or Seymour (a son of Delpini), out qf Sister to Castanea (bred by Lord Egremont in 1807), by Gohanna, out of Grey Skim, by Woodpecker, out of Silver's dam, by Herod, out of Young Hag, a grey mare, by Lord Portmore's grey horse Skim, out of Hag (also a grey mare, and bred by Lord Portmore in 1 744), by Old Crab, out of Ebony, by Flying Childers, out of Old Ebony (sister to Brown Betty, and bred by the Duke of Rutland), by Basto, out of his Grace's mare, by Mr. Massey's Black Barb. Whalebone is universally regarded as the sire of Moses.

The Royal Academy Exhibition of 1824, should have included a large picture of "His Majesty's Hunt," to which Davis had put the finishing touches in April of that year; but unfortunately the carrier to whom he entrusted the work for conveyance from Windsor to London, omitted to deliver the picture within the time prescribed by the Academy, and in consequence it was never shown. In the same year he painted the portrait of Tom Grant, for many years huntsman to the Dukes of Richmond; this picture was engraved by W. T. Fry and the reigning Duke was so much pleased with it that he accepted dedication of the engraving.

Portraits of horses, more especially race-horses and hunters, formed a considerable proportion of Davis's works, but likenesses of men and subject pictures also frequently occupied his easel. In 1827, he painted the portrait of George Sharpe, who after many years service as huntsman to George III., had retired on a pension in 1822. This work was also engraved by W. T. Fry. In 1831, he painted his brother's portrait, "Air. Charles Davis, His Majesty's Huntsman on his favourite Alare Columbine;" Charles Davis, cap in hand and at full gallop, is waving hounds on to the line beside a coppice. This picture was engraved by W. Giller, the plate measuring 19 inches by 15 inches, and was published in July, 1831, by Moon, Boys and Graves, London. The engraving was dedicated by the artist to the then Master of the Buckhounds, Viscount Anson.

Shooting subjects do not figure largely among the works of this artist, but when he turned his attention to sport with the gun he was highly successful, as witness the set of six pictures painted in 1836, and engraved by R. G. Reeve; this comprised: "Grouse Shooting," August; "Partridge Shooting," September; "Pheasant Shooting," October; "Snipe Shooting," November; "Woodcock Shooting," December; and " Water-fowl Shooting," January. These were printed in colours, the plates being 18 inches by 14 inches, and were published on 2nd November, 1836, by Thomas Maclean, London.

He was a keen sportsman and possessed wide knowledge of sporting matters, particularly of hunting; he does not appear to have been a great horseman, as we are told that it was his custom to follow the Royal pack on foot and make rough and hasty sketches of incidents which he turned to account after in his hunting pictures. He was a good judge of both horse and hound nevertheless.

In 1837, by command of the Queen, Davis painted a "Scene in Windsor Great Park," containing some twenty equestrian portraits. The scene is the Long Walk, Windsor Castle appearing in the distance, and the picture shows Her Majesty attended by her suite and accompanied by the King and Queen of the Belgians, and other distinguished persons. The horses, all portraits of favourites of the Queen, are admirably painted. This picture, which was engraved in 1838, by F. Bromley and published by Hodgson & Graves, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1841.

In 1837, Davis appears again as the publisher of his own work. At Wilton Street, Grosvenor Place, he issued the first number of The Hunter's Annual, a series of four drawings on stone by J. W. Giles from the artist's paintings, all "on elephant size," viz., 28 inches by 23 inches. The publication is dedicated to the King, and the pictures are:
(1) a portrait of Charles Davies on "Hermit", just emerging from the kennels surrounded by the Buckhounds--— "all remarkable likenesses," says the writer of an appreciative critique in the Sporting Magazine;
(2) a portrait of T. Goosey, huntsman of the "Belvoir", the scene being Croxton Park;
(3) Geo. Montford and Will Derry, huntsman and whipper-in to the Melton (Quorn), scene "John O'Groat's Gorse"; and
(4) John Shirley, huntsman to the Bramshill hounds, scene Bramshill House.
In each case the hunt servants are accompanied by hounds. An additional plate gives portraits of the most prominent hounds in the four packs with their names. The Hunter's Annual does not seem to have enjoyed a very prosperous career for we can trace reference to only three issues of the publication in the Sporting Magazine, the third and evidently last number having appeared in the autumn of 1839.

One of Davis's most successful hound portraits was that he painted in 1841, of a bitch in the Royal pack named "Luxury", bred by his brother. "Luxury" was considered a model hound; she came of the best Goodwood and Belvoir blood, and stood 23 inches high; she was six years old when she stood for her portrait. The sixth volume of the Sporting Review contained a well-executed engraving by A. Warren from this picture.

Davis's picture of "Hermit" deserves mention as one of his best equine portraits. "Hermit" was a grey, bred by Mr. Gates, of Brookwood Stumps, near Woking, by "Grey Skin" out of a white Arab mare, and was considered by Charles Davis the stoutest and best hunter he ever had. His speed and bottom were proved one day when Harry King, who was riding him, received the order to stop hounds when they "were flying like pigeons" over the grass more than a mile away. He stopped them ultimately; from that time Charles Davis rode "Hermit", and continued to do so till he was lamed, which happened after he had been worked for nine seasons. This picture was shown at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1840, and was engraved for the Sporting Review. A portrait of Charles Davis on "Hermit" was exhibited in the Academy two years later.

In 1845 Davis painted "The Royal Hunt," in which is portrayed Charles Davis galloping away from the spectator, up a broad, winding ride in Windsor Forest with about twelve couple of hounds some of which are racing on the line ahead of the huntsman, while the remainder are streaming out of the woodland; the field and whippers-in are grouped on the right of the canvas. The hounds are full of movement and spirit, and the artist has painted his brother in a position which shows to perfection the graceful seat in the saddle for which Charles Davis was famous. The landscape, with Windsor Castle in the distance, is only fairly good; the canvas measures 44 inches by 48 inches.

Another picture of the Royal Hunt was that painted in 1847, as a presentation work to Earl Granville, Master of the Buckhounds. The scene is a meet on Ascot Heath; Charles Davis is on a favourite grey "Lincoln" -- an entire; Robert Bartlett, first whipper-in rides "Corn Law"; Harry King is on "Postmaster-General"; J. Freeman on "Traverser", and George Bartlett, the feeder, stands on the left looking at the hounds. This picture, which measures 72 inches by 48 inches, was shown at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1847.

Davis's pictures of the Royal Hunt and Mr. Garth's hounds, and of incidents connected therewith, were numerous: many of them are to be seen in the houses of hunting residents and in the hotels of the district, where they possess an interest apart from their artistic merit which would not attach to them elsewhere.

Among other works may be mentioned,
"Foxhounds and Whelps," which was engraved on stone by S. W. Giles, size of plate 12 1/2 inches by 10 inches:
"Foxhounds Running in Covert," size of canvas 2 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 2 inches. The hounds, about five couple, are in full cry on the outside of a thick forest; a glimpse of light is shining-through the distant foliage. A beautiful mezzotint engraving of the work, 15 inches by 11 inches, was executed by W. Giller, published in 1829, by Mr. Davis, at 10, Wilton Street, Grosvenor Square, and sold by Boys and Graves, 6, Pall Mall; the original picture is now in the collection of H. J. King, Esq., 138, Piccadilly, London.
"Foxhounds in their Kennel," and "The King's Harriers," companion pictures, were engraved by Giles, plates 16 inches by 10 inches.

Davis resided at Windsor during a considerable period of his life; among his friends he counted James Ward, R.A., Edmund Bristowe and James Stark, the last named a landscape painter who took up his abode at Windsor in 1840.

Hounds excepted, the artist painted few pictures of dogs; so far as our researches have shown, he has not even left a portrait of one of the black and tan wire-haired fox-terriers, a breed celebrated for their keenness at fox, badger, and other vermin, and which at the time were much prized by huntsmen. Davis shared possession of this breed with an old friend of his, Mr. P. L. Rumbull, of Seymour Place, London.

Though the artist must have been much with his brother Charles, to whom it is no doubt truly stated he owed a great deal as sporting mentor, the two were not very deeply attached to one another; they were too utterly unlike to have much in common. Charles Davis's staid character, the "even and deserved prosperity of his career, his converse -- almost identity -- with great personages, and the responsible authority of his position may easily have induced a certain semi-royal aloofness," to quote from Lord Ribblesdale's excellent account of him. Richard Davis on the other hand was careless and Bohemian in his mode of life. Charles Davis when he died, at the age of seventy-nine, in 1867, left a large fortune which he bequeathed to Her Majesty; whereas Richard, when he died, at the age of sixty-two, in the year 1854, was in poverty.

NEAR VIRGINIA WATER, Two tall trees overshadow cottage, backed by a part of the forest; in the front is a pool of water covered with water-lilies, a boy fishing on the margin.


Animal Painters of England From the Year 1650; A brief history of their lives and works Illustrated with twenty-eight specimeiis of their paintings, chiefly from wood engravings by F. Babbage; Compiled by Sir Walter Gilbey, Bart. 900.

Note: Some text questionable due to age deterioration and wear of book in my possession.