John Emms

(21 April *1844 - 1 November 1912)



John Emms became Lord Leighton's assistant in Lyndhurst in 1872, but was already established as an artist of considerable talent in his own right, having exhibited his first painting at the Royal Academy in 1866. He was to exhibit many more times at the Academy and also showed his work in Suffolk Street. A noted sporting and hunting enthusiast, John Emms received many commissions through his contacts made in the field, and to quote Sally Mitchell "...his dog pictures are outstanding" (ref. The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists). Famous for his dress and somewhat Bohemian lifestyle, John Emms worked from a studio in London until the mid 1880s, when he returned to Lyndhurst and bult a large House in Queens Road called “The Firs”.

He developed a direct and rapid style using a limited palette. Emms was able to portray animals, especially hounds,with an appearance of vitality that reveals their personality. His hunting scenes are amongst his best works, and are a lively portrayal of traditional rural life. He was also an avid hunter and became famous for equine and canine paintings (particularly foxhounds and terriers) and exhibited his paintings several times at the Royal Academy. His paintings are signed “Jno Emms”. Emms is considered a painter of great ability, according to the American Kennel Club.

He died on 1 November 1912, aged 71, and is buried in Lyndhurst, Hampshire Cemetery.


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Emms was born in Norfolk. He became an avid hunter and became famous for his paintings of horses, and of dogs, particularly foxhounds and terriers. He exhibited at the Royal Academy several times, beginning in 1866. His paintings are signed “Jno Emms”.

He married Fanny Primmer of Lyndhurst, Hampshire, in 1880. The couple lived in London for a time but returned to Lyndhurst in 1881 and built a large house and studio named The Firs, where Emms lived for the rest of his life. He died in Lyndhurst.

His painting of "Callum" a Dandie Dinmont Terrier hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland.

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Born at Blofield in Norfolk, the son of the artist, Henry William Emms. The young Emms soon moved to London where he lived a Bohemian life dressed in a long black cloak and a wide brimmed black hat.

He worked as a studio assistant to the Victorian neo-classical painter, Lord Frederick Leighton, the only English artist to be elevated to the peerage. As a professional artist, Emms maintained studios in both London and Lyndhurst. His work is recognised by its bold loose brushwork and generous applications of paint, making it instantly recognisable from that of other sporting and dog artists working at that time.

Through his hunting he found many clients and this greatly influenced his subject matter and it is his hunting subjects and portraits of Fox Terriers that today many consider to be his trademark, although his output of portraits of dogs was prodigious and covered many breeds.

Emms exhibited at most of the major galleries, including 14 pictures at the Royal Academy. Towards the end of his life he fell on hard times, exchanging paintings for alcohol with the proprietor of the Stag Inn at Lyndhurst.

Emms visited on a number of occasions Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire which will forever be considered the spiritual home, if not the birthplace of the Clumber Spaniel. There, the Duchess of Newcastle, and to a lesser extent her husband, the Seventh Duke, established a large kennel that over the years housed many breeds. The Clumber Spaniel was one of the many breeds housed there.

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Multiple sources list different dates regarding John Emms' birth year.
I have found; 21 April, 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844.

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