Hancock, Charles

(ca. 1795 - Died ca. 1855 or 1868)

The exact date cannot now be ascertained, nor are there available any particulars concerning his antecedents, belongings and place of birth or death.

The exhibition of a picture at the Royal Academy in 1819 gives us our first clue; that year discovers Hancock, then a young man of about 24 years, residing at 55, St. James's Street. He won this first success with a portrait of "Mr. J. Hancock," a near relation, no doubt, of his own. His name does not occur in the Royal Academy catalogue of the following year; but at the exhibition of 1821, we find him represented by "The Broken Teapot," a title which suggests that his artistic tastes first took a domestic direction rather than sporting. At this latter date he was residing at Marlborough, in Wiltshire, and thenceforward until the year 1830, he would seem to have had no fixed abode: he dwelt sometimes at Marlborough, sometimes at Reading, and sometimes at High Wycombe, his London address being given as "Messrs. Tattersall's, Grosvenor Place," through which firm his dwelling-place was always to be discovered.

Nine or ten years' residence in country localities where sport, fox-hunting particularly, might be enjoyed, naturally imbued Hancock with sporting tastes; and he has left evidence of his proclivities in numerous pictures. Between the years 1819 and 1847, he exhibited at the Royal Academy twenty-three works; and though these no doubt include many of his best efforts, it is noteworthy that the portraits of racehorses (a class of work which formed one of his specialities) are not represented among them. He did not confine his exhibits to the Royal Academy; fifty-five paintings from his easel were shown at the British Institution, and forty-seven at the Suffolk Street exhibitions; he also contributed occasionally to other London galleries.

Though we find Hancock residing at Marlborough in 1821, it was not until 1825. that he turned his attention to animal subjects and sporting scenes. The first of such to call for notice was his portrait of the celebrated racehorse "Sir Hercules", bred by, and the property of, Lord Longford, for whom the picture was painted. This horse, bred in Ireland in 1826, was sold in 1833, to go to America. For Lord Berners, Hancock executed a portrait of his racehorse "Recovery", foaled in 1827. Both of these works were engraved by Richard Parr.

At one period of his career, indeed, it would seem that Charles Hancock shared with J. H. Herring the distinction of being the fashionable painter of winning horses on the turf; between the years 1835 and 1843, he painted portraits of the following:

"Mundig", winner of the Derby, 1835, for John Bowes, Esq. Scott is the jockey in the saddle. This portrait was engraved in large size, printed in colours, and published by Rudolph Ackermann, of Regent Street, in September, 1835. Richard Parr also engraved a small plate from this portrait.

"Queen of Trumps", winner of the Oaks and St. Leger, 1835, and one of the celebrated winning mares. This picture was engraved and published in colours by Rudolph Ackermann: the plate is a large size, the same as that from the portrait of "Mundig".

"Glencoe", bred by the Earl of Jersey in 1831: winner of the Royal Cup at Ascot in 1835. Painted in 1836, and engraved by E. Duncan; published in colours by Rudolph Ackermann in 1836.

"Bay Middleton", winner of the Two Thousand and Derby, 1836. Engraved by E. Duncan; published in colours by Rudolph Ackermann in 1836.

"Don John", bred in 1835, by Lord Chesterfield; winner of the St. Leger, 1838. This portrait was engraved by E. Duncan; published in colours by Rudolph Ackermann in 1838.

"Coronation", bred by Mr. Rawlinson; winner of the Derby, 1841. This picture was engraved in small size by E. Paterson.

"Satirist", bred by Lord Westminster; winner of the St. Leger, 1841.

"Attila", bred by Colonel Hancox; winner of the Derby, 1842.

"Our Nell", bred by Mr. Dawson; winner of the Oaks, 1842.

"Blue Bonnet", winner of the St. Leger, 1842.

"Cotherstone", bred by John Bowes, Esq.; winner of the Two Thousand and Derby, 1843.

"Nutwith", bred by Captain Wrather; winner of the St. Leger, 1843.

"Faugh-a-Ballagh", bred in Ireland, and purchased in 1842, by E. J. Irwin, Esq.; winner of the St. Leger and Cesarewitch, 1844.

The portraits of Satirist, Attila, Our Nell, Blue Bonnet, Cotherstone, Nutwith, and Faugh-a-Ballagh were all engraved in small size by E. Hacker.

In addition to the works mentioned as having been engraved, several other prints from his pictures are in existence.

Hancock's abilities were recognised by the editor of the New Sporting Magazine before he painted any of the equine portraits mentioned above. The first plate from a picture by his brush appears in the volume for 1833, and among the more noteworthy paintings reproduced in the Magazine may be mentioned the following: In vol. 5, "The Fox," painted in 1833, and engraved by Richard Parr. In vol. 20, "Marmion", an Old English bloodhound belonging to Lord William Beresford; the plate engraved by E. Paterson. In vol. 22, "New Year's Morn," gamekeepers of the olden time going out on their rounds; engraved by E. Paterson. In vol. 29, "How Happy could I be with Either," a fox watching a couple of rabbits in the distance; engraved by J. R. Scott.

Examination of the Sporting Magazine of the time reveals five engravings from the artist's paintings. In vol. 87 of December, 1835, for example, we find the picture "Scotch Terrier Chasing a Rabbit," which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832; it was very beautifully engraved by H. Beckwith as "The Warrener's Enemy." The rabbit, it may be remarked, is a white one; the keenness characteristic of the terrier in close pursuit is admirably portrayed. Three of the five plates represented foxes under varying conditions. Hancock never showed to better advantage than when painting a fox, and he was evidently fond of drawing wild animals whose beauty and character afford such infinite possibilities to the clever artist.

The following are a few of his numerous pictures which appeal to lovers of horse and hound and of the gun:

"Dos-a-dos," sleeping hounds huddled together; painted in 1833 and exhibited at the Gallery of the Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street, Pall Mall. Also a "White Horse chased by Black Spaniels." These pictures are described by a contemporary critic as "very clever."

"A Series of Heads of Sporting Dogs," the joint work of Abraham Cooper, R.A., and Charles Hancock, were engraved, bound, and published together in book form (royal folio) by Harding and King, London, in 1833.

"The Widow" represents a young widow seated in her late husband's arm-chair with a large hound by her side. This picture was engraved, and published by Harding and King in 1833.

In 1832, Charles Hancock exhibited two pictures at the British Institution: one, "The Keeper going his Rounds," was described as "a very spirited and talented production; the eagerness of the terriers as they watch their master's movements is admirably depicted." Of the other, "A Fox on the Watch," the critic says, "It has been purchased by Sir M. W. Ridley, and an old master of hounds told us he thought it was the best likeness of a fox he had ever seen," Sir M. White Ridley was himself Master of the Morpeth Hounds at this time. The opinion of the old M.F.H. was therefore borne out in the most practical form possible by Sir M. W. Ridley's purchase of the picture.

Lord Middleton has in his collection at Birdsall the following works by Charles Hancock: (1) A brown shooting pony in a landscape. (2) A picture of Henry, sixth Lord Middleton, with his brother-in-law, Bielby Lawley (afterwards Lord Wenlock), and Sir Francis Lawley. Lord Middleton sits on his grey pony "Don": the others stand near, evidently discussing which of them killed the woodcock, held in the hand of one of the brothers. Two other ponies, a bay and a grey (the latter afterwards presented to Mrs. Grimston-Keswick) stand feeding on the other side of the picture; and a black retriever, "Tip", is near his lordship. Many Clumber spaniels and a keeper are in the wood beyond. The picture has suffered much cracking from the use of asphaltum. Signed, "Charles Hancock, 1833." (3) Another smaller picture, said to be the work of Hancock, but without signature, is a lesser and different edition of Henry, Sixth Lord Middleton and his spaniels. The old lord (painted full figure, unlike the picture at Escrick, described below), sits under a tree near a stream in a wooded landscape; a keeper comes towards him through trees in the distance. A cream-coloured pony and eight Clumber spaniels are in the foreground; beside Lord Middleton lie a dead woodcock, and a black greyhound. The picture is a clever one, and is evidently Hancock's work.

In 1834, he painted "Lord Middleton, his Spaniels and Pony," the picture referred to in the description of the work numbered (3) at Birdsall. Lord Middleton and his brother-in-law, Sir Francis Lawley, are seated on the spectator's right; on the left stands a pony, and a small pack of spaniels occupy the centre of the canvas. This picture is now in the collection of Lord Wenlock at The Villa, Escrick, York. It was engraved by W. Giller, and "sold by C. Hancock, at Messrs. Tattersall's, Grosvenor Place; Hodgson, Boys and Graves, Pall Mall; and Rudolph Ackermann, Regent Street."

The New Sporting Magazine for June, 1835 (vol. 9), contains the following remarks on the above work, which was engraved for reproduction in the pages of that serial: "It is with feelings of regret that we prefix the word 'late' to the name of the principal subject in this picture, who is admirably represented in the bloom of health, seated beneath an ancient tree in his park, surrounded by his beautiful red and white spaniels (allowed to be the finest breed in England) to the number of seven couple, with his gun, keeper, and shooting pony in the background. Lord Middleton, as our readers have been informed by the daily prints, expired at his seat, Wollaton House, Notts, on the 19th, in the 75th year of his age. He was one of the oldest, keenest, and best sportsmen this country ever saw, following with unabated ardour to the last whatever sport the revolving year brought round. The painting from which this engraving is taken was done last year, and we spoke of it at the time we saw it in Mr. Hancock's studio in terms of high panegyric. The likeness of his lordship is admirable, and in looking upon it we cannot but regret that so many noble spirits depart from us without leaving any such memento. The picture is highly creditable to the talents of the very rising artist by whom it was painted; nor must we withhold our meed of praise from Mr. Giller for the able manner in which the plate is executed."

The expression "very rising artist" was never more happily used, as that year saw the beginning of Hancock's vogue as a painter of the best racehorses of the time.

In 1835, the artist painted "Tally-ho!" the picture of a fox breaking covert. This was engraved by Beckwith and Duncan was published by Rudolph Ackermann.

In 1836, he painted a portrait of "George Baker, Esq., on his Favourite old Mare." This was engraved by W. Giller. It was published by Ackermann. "Mr. Baker, of Elenore Hall, in the County of Durham" -- vide the New Sporting Magazine -- "has been a gentleman jockey, an owner of racehorses, a master of foxhounds, a member of Parliament, an amateur in the fine arts -- in short, he is a thoroughbred British sportsman."

Hancock's services were also in request as an illustrator of books. The Sportsmans Annual (royal folio), published in 1836, by A. H. Baily and Co., of Cornhill, and R. B. King, of Monument Yard, London, contains plates from pictures by Sir Edwin Landseer, Abraham Cooper, R.A., and Charles Hancock. If a man's work may be known, as we are told the man himself may be known, "by the company he keeps," nothing is wanting to prove the merit of this artist, whose paintings we thus find with those of the first masters of the day.

Sporting, illustrative of British field sports, edited by Nimrod, also a royal folio, and published by A. H. Baily and Co., contains plates from pictures by T. Gainsborough, R.A., Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., Abraham Cooper, R.A., J. F. Lewis and William Barraud. Hancock's five pictures in this work are "The Warrener," engraved by R. Parr; "The Gamekeeper," engraved by W. A. Scott; "Rat Hunting," engraved by T. S. Engleheart; "Thorngrove" and "Sir Hercules", two racehorses, engraved by H. Beckwith; and "Deer-stalking," engraved by W. Greatbach. The literary contributors, in criticising the plates in this book, speak highly of Hancock's skill in delineating animal life and of his general ability in grouping his subject pictures.

In 1838, he painted "The Young Falconers," an engraving from which picture, executed by H. Beckwith, was reproduced in vol. 9 of The Sportsman.

The plate from "Deer-stalking" shows Hancock's talent for judicious and artistic grouping. As a painter of animals he possessed rare abilities: the examples of his work to which reference has been made indicate the breadth of his scope, but his greatest successes were undoubtedly achieved in portraying animals which are connected with, or provide sport.

No record exists to show the exact date of Charles Hancock's death. His active career as a painter can be traced from 1819 to 1847, the period during which he contributed to the Royal Academy, but there is reason to believe that he attained the age of sixty, in which case it would seem that his brush lay idle in his later years.




PLATE IN THE SPORTSMAN, "THE YOUNG FALCONER", vol. 9, 1838; engraved by H. Beckwith.

Animal painters of England from the year 1650: a brief history of their lives and works: illustrated with specimens of their painting; Sir Walter Gilbey, (1900)

View painter's art: Charles Hancock, Animal Painter

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