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John Frederick Herring Senior was a highly successful British artist of the Victorian Era. Born in September 1865 in London, Herring had Dutch blood in his family, and his father was a merchant born in America. As a child, Herring was passionate about horses and drawing - passions that continued throughout his life. He continued living in London until he turned eighteen, when he moved to northern England, in Doncaster. There he was able to witness exciting horseraces, like when the Duke of Hamilton’s “William” won the race of St. Leger Stakes.
A year later, in 1815, the young nineteen-year-old artist married Herring married Ann Harris. The couple had five children together: their three boys became artists like their father - John Frederick, Charles, and Benjamin - while Ann and Emma, their two daughters, married painters. While living in Doncaster, Herring’s love for horses lead him to work as a coachman, and he would also paint signs for local inns. He eventually was commissioned to paint artworks of horses for these inns and was granted with the nickname: the artist coachman. His work caught the eyes of wealthy patrons who commissioned works with themes of hunting and racehorses.
In 1833, Herring moved back to London, but only after spending three years in Newmarket, England. William Taylor Copeland, a member of the parliament and a wealthy businessman, became the artist’s patron in a time of financial difficulties, commissioning designs for his family china business, Copeland Spode. In 1836, as his son John Frederck Herring Jr. was making a career as an artist, Herring added the Senior to his name to differentiate. Herring had the honor to work on behalf of the son of Louis-Phillipe, King of France, the Duke of Orleans, creating many paintings. He also visited Paris in 1840 after the Duke’s invitation. The artist’s production had caught the eye of Europe’s monarchy, raising his popularity, especially as an animal painter. In 1845, Herring received the honor of having the ruling Queen Victoria as his patron, and she continued commissioning work from him for the rest of his career. During the same year, his work was also requested by the Dutchess of Kent to produce animal paintings.
By the end Herring’s career, he eventually stopped producing paintings of horses and moved to southeast England, in a rural area of Kent in 1853. The artist changed to narrative themes and agricultural landscapes, as well as his usual paintings of hunting and outdoor subjects. Herring was a gentleman and a landowner, known in England as a country squire, and was an extremely successful artist throughout his career. Art historians consider him as one of the most important animal painters of the XIX century, just as Sir Edwin Landseer as well. Herring's artworks were extremely popular, and many were created into engravings, making his work more accessible to the public through prints. The British artist exhibited his work for almost fifty years at the prestigious Royal Academy, as well as 35 years at the British Institution. In 1842, Herring became vice president of the Society of British Artists, where he participated in art exhibits for more than fifteen years. Herring passed away on September 1865, eleven days after completing 70 years of age.