Snitterfield, Warwick 1682 - 1764 London
John Wootton is best known for his innovative contribution to the development of sporting and landscape painting in eighteenth century England. His early interest in painting was greatly encouraged by the Beaufort family, especially Lady Anne Somerset, who in 1690 married Thomas, the future 2nd Earl of Coventry and moved to Snitterfield House in Warwickshire.
The Beaufort and Coventry families were both patrons of the Dutch painter Jan Wyck and were probably responsible for introducing Wootton to Wyck, with whom he studied in the 1690s. Wootton then moved to London but travelled extensively to patrons’ country estates to paint their houses, horses, hounds and hunts. In 1711 he was a subscriber to the first English Academy of Drawing and Painting; in 1717 he was a Steward of the Virtuosi Club of St Luke’s.
As a sporting artist, Horace Walpole thought Wootton ‘a very capital master’, admiring the way ‘he both drew and coloured with consummate skill, fire and truth’. Wootton’s innovations as a sporting artist elevated the genre of animal portraiture and established precedents for horse portraiture which were widely imitated. Wootton is also to be credited with having painted the first Newmarket racing pictures, depicting The Warren Hill, The Heath, The Starting and Finishing Posts and The Rubbing Down House, which were to become popular pictorial types.
His work is represented at Badminton, Althorp and Longleat, where he painted large-scale sporting scenes for the entrance halls, and at the National Horseracing Museum, Newmarket.