John Frederick Herring

(12 September 1795 - 23 September 1865)

The Herring family were of Dutch origin. John Frederick Herring, also known as John Frederick Herring I, was born iin humble circumstances at Blackfriars, London, the eldest of nine children of Benjamin Herring and Sarah Jemima, née Howard. His father was a fringe maker and upholsterer working from Newgate Street in the City of London. He began life as a sign and house painter, and was at one time driver of a mail coach, and as an artist was entirely self-taught, which may perhaps account for his specialty as an artist, namely, animals, and particularly horses. His works were numerous and very popular in England. Many of them have been engraved, and the lithographic prints of many of his racing and coaching pictures are familiarly known on both sides of the Atlantic. As preserving the manners and customs of travel in a past generation they are of great interest. At an exhibition of pictures illustrative of the "Coaching Days of England," held in London in 1877, were his "York Stage," "The Mail Change, 1839," and the "Mail Coach, 1841." His "Frugal Meal," painted in 1847, is in the Vernon Collection of the National Gallery. Among his other works are, "The Farm, -- Autumn," "Watering the Team," "The Farm-Yard," "Horses and Poultry," "The Old Lodge," etc., painted in the later years of his life.

Herring spent the first eighteen years of his life in the city of London, where his father, an American whose parents were Dutch, was a fringe-maker in Newgate Street. As a child he showed an aptitude for handling both whip and pencil. Having married against his father's wishes, he went, without settled plans, to Doncaster, where he arrived during the races in September 1814, and saw the Duke of Hamilton's horse "William" win the St. Leger. The sight inspired him to attempt the art of animal-painting, in which he subsequently excelled. At first he did not succeed as an animal-painter, but executed some satisfactory work in coach-painting, which led him to aspire to drive a coach. For two years he drove the "Nelson" coach from Wakefield to Lincoln. He was afterwards transferred to the "Doncaster" and "Halifax" coach. While he was engaged on that road, his artistic powers, which he continually exercised, were discovered and appreciated, and he received many commissions to paint horses for gentlemen in the neighbourhood. In spite of increasing success as a painter of horses, he refused to hurriedly abandon his calling as coachman, and for some time drove the "Highflyer" coach between London and York.

When he eventually retired from the road and settled at Doncaster, he immediately obtained very numerous commissions. It was as the portrait-painter of racehorses that Herring earned his especial fame, and no great breeder or owner of racehorses is without some treasured production of Herring's brush. He painted "Filho da Puta", the winner of the St. Leger in 1815, and for the following thirty-two years painted each winner in succession. He painted "Mameluke", the winner of the Derby in 1827, and several other winners in later years.

Herring had no education in art until he definitely set up as an artist, when he worked for a short time in the studio of Abraham Cooper, R.A.

He painted an immense number of racing, coaching, and other sporting subjects, many of which were published by the sporting printsellers and the sporting magazines. He was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists; he was elected a member of the latter society in 1841. In 1830, he quitted Doncaster, and after residing some time near Newmarket, removed to Camberwell, London., He finally resided at Meopham Park, near Tunbridge Wells, where he died.

Towards the close of his career Herring painted various subject-pictures, some of which have been engraved. In the National Gallery there is "A Frugal Meal," formerly in the Vernon Collection (engraved by J. Burnet and E. Hacker); in the Glasgow Gallery, "A Group of Ducks" and "The Deerstalker;" and in the National Gallery at Dublin, "A Black Horse drinking from a Trough." Herring, who painted several horses for the queen, was appointed animal-painter to the Duchess of Kent. He was somewhat vain of his powers, and thus lost some support in his later days. His musical talent was worthy of note. He had three sons, John Frederick, Charles, and Benjamin, who followed their father's profession. Charles died in 1856, and Benjamin in 1871. A portrait of Herring engraved by J. B. Hunt, after W. Betham, was prefixed to a memoir published in 1848.

[Memoir of J. F. Herring, Sheffield, 1848; Art Journal, 1865, p. 328; Sporting Magazine, November 1865; Bryan's Dictinary of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves; Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 26, Herring, John Frederick, by Lionel Henry Cust

Herring, born in London in 1795, was the son of a London merchant of Dutch parentage, who had been born overseas in America. The first eighteen years of Herring's life were spent in London, where his greatest interests were drawing and horses. In the year 1814, at the age of 18, he moved to Doncaster in the north of England, arriving in time to witness the Duke of Hamilton's "William" win the St. Leger Stakes horserace. By 1815, Herring had married Ann Harris; his sons John Frederick Herring, Jr., Charles Herring, and Benjamin Herring were all to become artists, while his two daughters, Ann and Emma, both married painters. When she was barely of age in 1845, Ann married Harrison Weir.

In Doncaster, England, Herring was employed as a painter of inn signs and coach insignia on the sides of coaches, and his later contact with a firm owned by a Mr. Wood led to Herring's subsequent employment as a night coach driver. Herring spent his spare time painting portraits of horses for inn parlors, and he became known as the "artist coachman" (at the time) Herring's talent was recognized by wealthy customers, and he began painting hunters and racehorses for the gentry.

In 1830, John Frederick Herring, Senior, left Doncaster for Newmarket, England, where he spent three years before moving to London, England. During this time, Herring might have received tuition from Abraham Cooper. In London, Herring experienced financial difficulties and was given financial assistance by W. T. Copeland, who commissioned many paintings, including some designs used for the Copeland Spode bone china. In 1840-1841, Herring visited Paris, painting several pictures, on the invitation of the Duc d'Orleans (the Duke of Orleans), son of the French King Louis-Phillipe.

In 1845, Herring was appointed Animal Painter to HRH the Duchess of Kent, followed by a subsequent commission from the ruling Queen Victoria, who remained a patron for the rest of his life.

In 1853, Herring moved to rural Kent in the southeast of England and stopped painting horse portraits. He spent the last 12 years of his life at Meopham Park near Tonbridge, where he lived as a country squire. He then broadened his subject matter by painting agricultural scenes and narrative pictures, as well as his better known sporting works of hunting, racing and shooting.

A highly successful and prolific artist, Herring ranks along with Sir Edwin Landseer as one of the more eminent animal painters of mid-nineteenth century Europe. The paintings of Herring were very popular, and many were engraved, including his 33 winners of the St. Leger and his 21 winners of the Derby. Herring exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1818-1865, at the British Institution from 1830-1865, and at the Society of British Artists in 1836-1852, where Herring became Vice-President in 1842.


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The Horse & Hound in Art


Son of the preceding. Born into an artistic family in Doncaster, England during 1820. Best known for his equine art, of the same character as those of the elder Herring, including "The Home Farm," "The Homestead," "The Farm-Yard," etc.

John F. Herring, Jr. was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire c.1820, to the well-known 19th-century artist John Frederick Herring, Sr. (1795-1865), who at the time, was considered one of England's great Sporting and Equestrian artists, patronized by the English aristocracy. The father's mastery of the brush, and popularity with the nobility, served his son, Herring, Jr., well. Early on, John, Jr. was exposed to fine painting and wealthy patrons.

Recent reference books state that Herring, Sr.'s first child was named "John Frederick Herring, Jr." and was born on June 21, 1815, later baptized on October 22, 1815. However, another child was born in 1820 and also named "John Frederick Herring, Jr." (baptized in 1821). The assumption is that the first Herring child died and the second, born in 1820, is the artist we know of today.

John Herring, Jr. developed a love for painting, a passion also shared by his brothers Charles and Benjamin. Three of the four brothers became artists, painting in the same style as their father, often collaborating on a single painting.

In the years after 1836, Herring, Sr., feeling threatened by the teenage John Herring, Jr.'s ability and growing popularity, began incorporating the tag "SR" at the end of his signature.

John Herring, Jr. continued painting in the tradition of his father, the sporting and animal pictures; however, as his artistic prowess improved, his style changed: he loosened his brushwork and widened his landscape views. The placement of farm animals along the banks of a stream or within a farmyard were characteristic of the work of Herring, Jr.

His work is often confused with that of his father, John Frederick Herring Senior, since he initially worked with him and used his signature. A good painter but he could not equal his father's finest work. He painted the same kind of hunting scenes and farmyard subjects with a slightly different technique.

Herring, Jr. married Kate Rolfe, an artist herself and the daughter of Alexander Rolfe, the English angling and sporting artist. Herring, Jr. would, at times, collaborate with his father-in-law, as well as other artists; painting the animals in their works.


The youngest of six children born to John F. Herring, Sr. (1795-1865). A painter of animals and rural scenes and a member of the famous family of sporting artists. He often helped his father, John Frederick Herring Senior and much of his work was similar in style to the point that there have been suggestions that in later life he forged his father's work. Though his style is very similar, with a realistic rendition of the horse and fluidity of movement; his choice of coloration is quite different. Instead of the deep rich tones so prevalent in the palettes of other members of the Herring family, Benjamin favored a more pastel one. His pictures of horse racing are imposing and well painted and his work was used for illustrating books.

He died at the relatively young age of 41 after producing only a small body of work and it is widely believed that his finest paintings were produced towards the end of his career. During his short career he exhibited a few works the Royal Society of British Artists and the British Institution.