T02018 FARMYARD SCENE
Inscribed “J F Herring” b.c.
Oil on canvas. 22 1/2×33 (57.2×83.8)
Bequeathed by Gilbert Charles Dandy 1975
Coll: Miss F.C. Griffiths, by 1916; Thomas Fletcher Adams, by descent to Gilbert Charles Dandy.
Farmyard scenes featuring draught-horses amid a litter of straw, with a supporting cast of pigs, poultry, ducks or pigeons, were the preferred subjects of John Frederick Herring senior (1795–1865) in later life, particularly after his retirement to the Kentish countryside in the early 1840s. Herring had made his name chiefly as a painter of classic racehorses, but by 1848 reported ‘I am now, I am happy to say, completely out of the pale of this sort of thing, and am happy to say that my pictures are no sooner seen than purchased’ (letter to Rev. Charles Spencer-Stanhope, printed in A. M. W. Stirling, A Painter of Dreams, 1916, p.275). Employing his younger son Charles (1828–56) as his studio assistant, Herring produced numerous farmyard and stable scenes, many of which were engraved; several were exhibited under titles such as ‘A Straw Yard’ or ‘A Farm Yard’ at the R.A. and B.I. between 1840 and 1852.
The continuing popularity of Herring's farmyard scenes encouraged imitators. Foremost among these was the artist's eldest son, John Frederick Herring junior (1816–1907), who catered unscrupulously to public demand by painting farm scenes in his father's style (though with considerably less talent) and signing them in a manner at first indistinguishable from his father's. This provoked a quarrel between father and son, and led to the father's later practice of adding ‘Senior’ and the date to his signature. J.F. Herring junior exhibited many farm scenes at the R.A. and B.I. between 1863 and 1873.
T02018 is painted without much finesse. The draughtmanship of the horses is uncertain, the texture of horses' coats, pigs' hides and ducks' feathers seemingly identical, and the litter of straw mechanically rendered. The work falls far short of the quality of J. F. Herring senior and arguably short of that of J.F. Herring junior. The scenes which Herring senior himself described as ‘rusticated’ exerted an increasing appeal as industrialization proceeded. This example may well be by an unknown and comparatively late exploiter of the farmyard idyll.
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978