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John Frederick Herring Snr - In the stable at Meopham

John Frederick Herring Snr

In the stable at Meopham

Oil on canvas: 34.5(h) x 44(w) in / 87.6(h) x 111.8(w) cm
Signed and dated 1855

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Surrey 1795 - 1865 Meopham Park, Kent

Ref: CA 147


In the stable at Meopham


Signed and dated lower right: J.F.Herring.Snr. / 1855

Oil on canvas: 34 ½ x 44 in / 87.6 x 111.8 cm

Frame size: 41 ½ x 51 ¼ in / 105.4 x 130.2 cm





Lady Violet Macfayden

Richard Green, London;

Dr Allan Smith, UK, acquired from the above in 1992



Christopher Neve, ‘A Victorian Peaceable Kingdom, J.F. Herring at Meopham Park’, Country Life Annual, 1970, p.91, illus.

Oliver Beckett, JF Herring and Sons, 1981, p.124, no.274



In his later work, JF Herring Snr often featured the beautiful grey Arab Imaum, one of four Arabs presented to Queen Victoria by the Imaum of Muscat. The Queen gave Imaum to the Clerk of the Royal Stables, who sold him at Tattersalls, where Herring purchased him. The figure standing in the doorway is the artist’s daughter Jennie and the seated man is William Terry, who sat to Herring as the jockey in many of his racehorse portraits and posed for him for seventeen years up until 1856.


Herring leased his final home at Meopham Park, three miles from Tonbridge, Kent in 1853, when he was fifty-eight. It was a large Georgian mansion with spacious rooms and a park of thirty acres including walled kitchen gardens, pleasure grounds, an orchard, granaries, a brewing-house, farmyard piggeries, cow houses, a saddle-room and a studio twenty-one feet square, all for £180 a year[1]. Herring’s move to Meopham Park signified a new and prosperous period in his life during which he devoted himself primarily to painting rural and farmyard scenes. ‘He only had to send a letter or two to London, saying he had something to show, and “down would come the dealers and clear the decks” ’[2]. In 1930, Meopham Park became the home of Lady Violet Macfadyen and her husband Sir Eric Macfadyen. The Macfadyens collected several fine examples of Herring’s work, including this painting.


Another version of this subject, Stable interior, Meopham Park, Kent, was included in the Centenary Exhibition of John Frederick Herring Senior 1795-1868 held at Arthur Ackermann and Son Ltd., 1965, no.28.



Surrey 1795 - 1865 Meopham Park, Kent



John Frederick Herring was the son of Benjamin Herring, a London fringe maker and upholsterer of Dutch parentage, who had been born in America. The first eighteen years of his life were spent in London, where his greatest interests were drawing and horses. In 1814 he moved to Doncaster, arriving just in time to see the Duke of Hamilton’s William win the St Leger. By 1815 he had set up house with Ann Harris; his sons John Frederick Herring Jnr (1815/21-1907), Charles (1828-1856) and Benjamin (1830-1871) were all to become artists, while his daughters Ann and Emma both married painters.


In Doncaster Herring earned his living as a painter of coach insignia and inn signs and his contact with a firm owned by a Mr Hill led to his employment as a night coach driver, a surprisingly glamorous profession where speed and skill were much admired. Herring graduated to be driver of the prestigious High Flyer which plied between York and London. Herring’s spare time was spent playing the clarinet, composing music and painting portraits of horses for inn parlours; he became known as the ‘artist coachman’. His talent was quickly recognised and he soon found himself painting hunters and racehorses for the gentry, among them Charles Stanhope and the Hon. Edward Petre. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818 and in 1825 was commissioned by the Doncaster Gazette to paint the winners of the St Leger, which were engraved. This series and the series of Derby winners which followed in 1827 disseminated Herring’s work to a wide public. Around this time Herring seems to have taken lessons from the sporting artist Abraham Cooper (1787-1868) to address the technical shortcomings of having been self-taught.


In 1830, Herring left Doncaster for Six Mile Bottom, Newmarket, where he spent three years before moving to Camberwell, London. In London Herring got into financial difficulties and was rescued by William Taylor Copeland, who commissioned many paintings including designs used for Copeland Spode bone china. His companion Ann died in 1838 and Herring subsequently married Sarah Gale (1794-1882/3). In 1840-41 Herring visited Paris by invitation of the Duc d’Orléans, for whom he painted several racehorses. In 1845 Herring was appointed Animal Painter to HRH the Duchess of Kent. There followed a commission from Queen Victoria, who was to remain a patron for the rest of his life. In 1853 he leased Meopham Park near Tonbridge, Kent, where he lived as a country squire. He now broadened his subject matter and painted agricultural scenes and narrative pictures, as well as his hunting, racing and shooting pictures.


A highly successful and prolific artist, Herring ranks with Sir Edwin Landseer as one of the most eminent animal painters of the mid-nineteenth century. Herring exhibited at the Royal Academy 1818-65, the British Institution 1830-65 and the Society of British Artists (whose Vice-President he became in 1842), 1836-52. He died at Meopham Park on 23rd September 1865.





[1] Beckett, op. cit., p.59.

[2] Beckett, ibid., p.60.


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