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John Ferneley Snr (1782-1860) was born the son of a Leicestershire wheelwright, the youngest of six children. He is one of the great British equine artists, perhaps only second to Stubbs in terms of raw ability. Ferneley originally worked with his father, until by chance the Duke of Rutland saw some of his work on the side of a cart on which Ferneley and his father had been working. The Duke was so impressed with Ferneley he persuaded the lad's father to allow him to be tutored.
A sum of £200 was paid to an artist, Benjamin Marshall, for three years, but it is not clear who paid the sum. Ferneley was so talented that apparently he produced almost perfect copies of his tutor's paintings. In 1804 he paid a man named Thomas Harrison to undertake his compulsory army service - a practice that was commonplace at the time. It was ironic that his first commission then came from the Leicestershire militia.
Thereafter he received widespread commissions and his reputation grew. Between 1808 and 1811 he made frequent trips to Ireland, where he painted pictures for the gentry. His best work was painted in the period of 1810 to 1850, when he displayed his full repertoire of hunting, racing and horse scenes.
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