Ferneley, John (DNB00)

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FERNELEY, JOHN (1782–1860), animal painter, born at Thrussington, Leicestershire, on 18 May 1782, was the son of a wheelwright, and was apprenticed to his father's trade. He, however, soon showed a taste for painting, and used to copy pictures which were lent to him, besides painting the fore-boards of wagons with colours prepared by himself, and obtained from the town of Leicester during his free Saturday afternoons. At the age of twenty-one, in 1803, he was sent by his father to London to study under Ben Marshall, the best known painter of horses at that time, and remained about a year under his tuition, spending an interval of six months at Dover, where he painted pictures for the officers of the Leicestershire militia, then stationed at Dover Castle. In 1806 Mr. Assheton Smith [q. v.], who had just purchased the Quorn hounds, sent for Ferneley to Quorndon, and had some large hunting pictures painted by him. These, and some similar pictures painted for Lord Tamworth at Stanton Harold, gained him a reputation, and established for him a practice, in which, though not one of the higher branches of the art, he became almost unrivalled, and enjoyed an unlimited patronage for about fifty years. In 1809–10 and 1812 Ferneley was in Ireland, painting pictures for the Earl of Belmore, Lord Lismore, Lord Rossmore, and many others. He returned to his native country, married, and in 1814 established himself at Melton Mowbray, where he resided until his death, only leaving it for professional visits. He painted innumerable portraits of hunting scenes, and of the noblemen and gentry who were the chief patrons of the sport. Though not a great painter or a finished artist, he possessed industry and the art of pleasing his patrons, with most of whom he was on terms of personal friendship, becoming by degrees one of the best-known characters in Melton Mowbray society. There is hardly a house in the district inhabited by sportsmen that does not boast some specimen of Ferneley's work. He occasionally painted turf, coaching, and other sporting subjects, but the chase was his speciality, and brought out his best work. Ferneley died 3 June 1860, and was buried at Thrussington. He married, first, Miss Sally Kettle (d. 1836), by whom he had seven children, of whom two followed his profession: John (1815–1862), who resided chiefly in Yorkshire, painting hunting and military pictures, and Claude Loraine, still living, a landscape and animal painter. Ferneley married, secondly, Miss Ann Allan (d. 1853), by whom he had one son. Ferneley was a frequent exhibitor and visitor at the London exhibitions; many of his pictures have been engraved in the ‘Sporting Magazine’ and other similar works.

[New Sporting Magazine, July 1860; Leicestershire Mercury, 9 June 1860; Royal Academy Catalogues; private information.]

L. C.