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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

John Frederick Herring Jr.

Over the Brook, John Frederick Herring Jr.
With all the thousands of career opportunities available today for young people to persue, it's gradually becoming somewhat rare for a child to follow in their father's professional footsteps. That depends to some degree on the nature of the father's career, of course, and is probably most common today in cases where there is a family business involved (funeral homes, for instance). Very often today, a son or daughter, having grown up living "over the store," or watching the trials and tribulations besetting their parents, early on decide they want nothing whatsoever to do either parent's profession. The preacher's son is off to college to study chemistry. The doctor's daughter becomes a musician.

Jockey, Nat Flatman, Preserve, 1835, John Frederick Herring Jr.
an early work quite similar to that of his father.
Horses in the Farmyard (detail),
John Frederick Herring Jr.

A century or two ago, that was not the case.  Formal education was expensive (as if it isn't today). Father's taught their sons, sometimes even their daughters, everything they knew so that the offspring might carry on the family name professionally. The Dutch were especially fond of this tradition. Very often the son (let's face it, this was mostly a male tradition) never rose to the same level as the father as such training frequently looses something as in being handed down; or the son's ambition never measures up to the father's expectations. In reality, apprentices seldom outshined their masters. We only remember those who did. One of those who did, was the 19th-century English painter, John Frederick Herring Jr.
John Frederick Herring, Sr.
Pharaoh's Horses, 1848,
Frederick Herring Sr.
John Frederick Herring Sr. was a successful horse painter, his most famous work, Pharaoh's Horses (above, left), dating from 1848, made him a favorite of England's "horsey" set during the early Victorian era. He had three sons, John Jr., born in 1820, was the eldest. The other two (perhaps quite wisely) chose other professions. Either the father was a far better teacher than artist (not all that unusual even today) or the son was a very apt pupil. In any case, it wasn't long before the son's similar paintings, such as Preserve (above) were being mistaken for the work of his father. The younger Herring began signing his work: John Frederick Herring Junr. When the family moved from the Newmarket area of England to London in 1833, John Jr. declined to go along, choosing instead to make his name as an artist apart from his father's, despite the similarities of their style and content.
Farmyard Friends, John Frederick Herring, Jr.
Berkshire Saddleback Sow with Piglets,
John Frederick Herring, Jr.
He was quite successful, even broadening the scope of his work from just horses to all their Farmyard Friends (above) and Berkshire Saddleback Sow with Piglets (left). Consequently, it wasn't long before the father's work was being mistaken for the son's (or so he imagined, at any rate). Actually, John Jr's horses had long surpassed the rather stilted, formulaic images. In any case, as early as 1836, the father began adding "Snr" after his signature at about the same time his son dropped the "Junr" designation from his own. That may have served to eliminate the confusion (if there really was any), but it did nothing to soothe the father's ego. The two became competitors in a rather small, cramped niche of the British art market. A family rift developed which apparently never healed. When John Frederick Herring Sr. died in 1865, there was no mention of his eldest son in his otherwise highly detailed will. John Frederick Herring Jr. (known as Fred) died in 1907. He either had no sons or they chose not to paint.

Fox Hunting--the Meet, John Frederick Herring Jr.


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