John Frederick Herring Jr.
Steeplechase and Full Cry, 1860s
Anon. Sale; Christie’s, New York, 4 June 1982, lot 189.
Private Collection, UK.
Fred, as he was nicknamed, was the son of the artist John Frederick Herring Senior (1795 – 1865) and the eldest of eight siblings. A child by that name was recorded born on 21 June 1815, but then a second child born in 1820 was baptised with the same name. Thus it is assumed that the first infant died and the second is the present artist. Three of the four Herring brothers became artists and painted in the same style as their father, often collaborating on a single work. As John Frederick Herring Junior’s career progressed, his father became increasingly threatened by his son’s skills and often there was confusion between the two artist’s works. Frequently Herring Junior’s best work was given to his father and in order to avoid this he initially signed his paintings “J. Fred Herring” or “J.F. Herring junr” and his father began incorporating a “Senr” at the end of his signature. However, when the rest of his family moved to London in 1833, John Frederick Herring Junior remained in the Newmarket area, making his way as an independent artist and reverting once more to the signature “J.F. Herring”. It would appear that the rift between father and son was never healed as there is no mention of Fred Herring in J.F. Herring Senior’s very detailed will.
The presence of a chimney sweep in nineteenth-century steeplechase scenes was not an uncommon occurrence, though the exact reason for this is unclear. Chimney sweeps are traditionally a sign of good luck; according to legend, a horse belonging to King George II (1683 – 1760) bolted and as the King was about to fall a chimney sweep ran to the rescue and calmed the horse. The sweep ran off before the King had time to thank him, but as a result the King declared chimney sweeps good luck.
David Fuller has seen the present works and dates them to the 1860s.