Henry Alken Jr.
Over the hedge; In the water; Two down; The collision; c. 1840-50
Private collection, New York.
Sale; Christie’s, New York, 4 June 1982, lot 108 (as “Henry Alken Senior”)
Private collection, UK.
Born Samuel Henry (Gordon) Alken but known professionally as Henry Alken Junior, the artist was the eldest son of the leading sporting painter Henry Alken Senior (1785 – 1851) and Marissa née Gordon. He spent most of his career in London painting racing, foxhunting and coaching scenes in both oils and watercolour, and typically signed his work “H. Alken” in the same manner as his father, which has led to difficulties in attribution. Father and son have a similar manner, though the latter sometimes demonstrated a certain smoothness of facture, and it is assumed that Henry Gordon was either taught by, or copied, Henry Alken Senior. A number of prints were published after Henry Gordon’s most popular works, and he was commissioned to paint many of the individual horses in George Augustus Sala’s 60-foot panorama of the funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington (1852).
The four paintings Over the hedge, In the water, Two down, and The collision do not seem to follow the same steeplechase, as the jockeys’ colours and horses do not correspond; thus they are probably scenes devised by Alken rather than a series of episodes from a particular race.
David Fuller, who has had the opportunity to study these paintings first-hand, commented on their excellent quality and dated them to circa 1840-50 (verbal communication with Simon Dickinson).