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Doncaster Features: Famous Doncastrian: J.F.Herring

J(ohn) F(rederick) Herring (b Surrey, 1795; d Meopham, Kent, 23 Sept 1865) was the most prolific and financially successful member of the Herring family. His brother, Benjamin Herring (b Surrey, 1806; d 1830), had a brief career largely devoted to producing passable imitations of the work of several early 19th-century sporting painters.

Having eloped with Anne Harris to Doncaster at the age of 18, John Frederick (i) began a seven-year career as a coach driver on regular routes to London and then Halifax, meanwhile practising as a painter in his spare time. Work with horses and constant travel through the countryside may have stimulated his interest in animal and rural subject-matter—the areas in which he specialized after becoming a full-time professional artist c. 1820, having exhibited his first painting at the Royal Academy in 1818.

Regular employment was provided by the Doncaster Gazette for which, since 1815, he had been painting designs for engraved portraits of the annual winner of the St Leger. Later, in a similar series, he painted the winners of the Derby between 1827 and 1847.

Prominent among his early private patrons were Charles Spencer-Stanhope and Frank Hawkesworth. He moved to Newmarket in 1830 and to Camberwell in 1833, where he fell into debt and was rescued by the industrialist W. T. Copeland. He lived for some years on the latter’s estate in Essex and there produced, among many paintings, designs for hunting scenes to be used on Copeland Spode porcelain.

Introductions to and commissions from Ferdinand, Duc d’Orléans, Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess of Kent (1786–1861; to whom he was appointed Official Painter in 1845), and her daughter Queen Victoria helped to secure his reputation among the nobility. He was able to retire to a substantial (if leased) country estate in Meopham Park, Kent, in the early 1850s.

His non-sporting works of the late 1850s are perhaps among the most successful of his total output, notably The Harvest of 1857 (New Haven, CT, Yale Cent. Brit. A.), which reveals his certain competence as a landscape and figure painter. His Memoir was published in Sheffield in 1848. All three of his sons, J(ohn) F(rederick), Charles and Benjamin, occasionally contributed to his canvases as well as painting their own.

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