Ferneley (18 May 1782 Thrussington, Leicestershire - 1860
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire), was an English painter who specialised in
portraying sporting horses and hunting scenes. Although his rendition of
horses was stylised, he is regarded as one of the great British equine
artists, second perhaps only to George Stubbs.
At first apprenticed until 1801 to his father, who was a master wheelwright, he
was encouraged to take up painting by John Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland.
Accordingly, he moved to London and studied under the sporting artist Benjamin
Marshall. While training with Marshall he joined the Royal Academy School. His work
was exhibited between 1806 and 1853 at the Royal Academy. He traveled extensively
in Ireland from 1806 to 1809, but returned to England to marry, and started working
from Melton Mowbray. Here he built his studio and later a house, Elgin Lodge, on
the Scalford Rd. Melton Mowbray was fast becoming a watering hole for the sporting
fraternity and the place where modern fox-hunting developed in the late eighteenth
century. Hugo Meynell, a wealthy local bred his hounds to keep up with the horses
and riders in their pursuit over hedges and ditches. At this time riders began
wearing the scarlet jackets which were to become traditional.
Ferneley's paintings depicted hunting when it was extremely fashionable. Good
horses sold quite readily for 200 guineas and most riders had at least ten in their
stables. His work became much sought after, his patrons including many Royals and
personalities such as Beau Brummel and the Count d'Orsay. Ferneley routinely was
commissioned to paint the famous Quorn, Belvoir, and Cottesmore hunts. The members
all contributed to the painter's fee and then drew lots to determine the winner.
Ferneley specialised in painting "scurries", panoramic paintings showing a sequence
of events. He befriended Sir Francis Grant and helped him with the painting of
horses while Grant in return helped with figure painting. In this way they
collaborated on a number of paintings. Ferneley's signature was done very
delicately with a pin head in the wet paint and often hidden on a fence, stable
door or in an unexpected corner of the painting. His signature is easily
differentiated from that of his son, John Junior, who normally signed heavily in
Between 1810 and 1812 he visited Ireland twice more, carrying out a great number
of commissioned paintings for wealthy Irish patrons. He produced six children with
his first wife (who died in 1836) - three of his children later became
Ferneley kept a set of account books dating between 1807 and 1860; the detailed
notes providing useful material for later historians.