Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hunt ~ J F Herring ~ Spode Tablescape

I'm baaaaaack!  And I'm back with a rustic, hunt scene table setting.

The black transferware plates I've used in this setting are part of the Hunt series from Spode Copeland featuring the works of J F Herring, aka The Artist Coachmen, which the Copelands commissioned themselves.  

Each plate has a different, titled scene depicting the various stages of the hunt beginning with 'The Meet' and ending with 'The Death'.

Originally I was going to pair the plates with a tartan of some sort, a riding hat and whip but then I changed my mind as I started putting it together.  I thought brown and black, warm and rustic, romantic and rugged, Fall turning to Winter (pinecones and pheasant feathers meet pine needles and holly...I did this table at the end of November) mostly masculine but a touch of feminism (lace napkins do that trick).   So, what you see is what I came up with.

Each plate rests on a placemat made of real pheasant feathers.

 These vintage, solid black glasses, have the neatest horn shape.  They remind me a little of stirrup cups that hunting men, gathered on horseback, would have a welcome drink from to start their day.  The custom is essentially English and tied to the hunting of fox.  Anyway, they are unique and beautiful and seemed to go with the theme. I'm into themes in case you haven't noticed.  I also used them in a French-ey toile tablescape HERE

I was going to use some black flatware by Hampton but realized I had only four settings (I think this is when I decided to punt the tartan actually) and so went with my Spode Woodland.

I found the napkin rings on clearance at Wally World (Walmart) for like $1 for a set of four.  Wish I'd bought every one they had but I settled for two sets.  They look like tooled leather but they're plastic, or shall I say plastique?  The feminine part to this table...lace trimmed napkins over basic black dinner napkins.  Those lace napkins were my Moms.  I remember her using them at dinner parties she hosted.  You've seen 'em here before and you'll see 'em here again. 

My favorite part of this table was the centerpiece.  I have a small collection of Italian decanters encased in leather.   I placed them on an antique wicker serving tray with tealight candles all around.  
On either side of the tray I placed some mixed Winter greens and Fall foliage of pine needles, holly, evergreens, pinecones and pheasant feathers along with shed antlers.  Extending the arrangement so that it ran the length of the table I added grapevine balls and amber colored pinecone candles to the mix. 
Cool candles, aren't they?

I didn't get many good photos of this tablescape and having the top of my bird cage table sitting in here (see it over there on the right?)  didn't help but...since I'm describing my centerpiece I wanted to also say that in order to balance out the height of the decanters at the center I  placed brown taper candles at each end of the arrangement which also helped extend it as I wanted to.

I'm going to let you all look over a few more pics of the table and then for those of you who like the historical tidbits I like to share then read on because the story about J F Herring (the artist whose drawings are featured on these plates) is really amazing.  Nearer the bottom of this post you'll be able to see some of the variations in this pattern as well.  The black plates you see here are unusual and not the most commonly seen or found.   I have six of them, each with a different scene, and they are available for purchase in my online shop.


Herring's paint brush made him a coachman and he became a famous artist through being a coachman.  His life and career were so interestingly determined by the brush and the whip.

As part of my transfer ware collection, business and love of history I often seek out periodicals and books that tell about the authors whose works find their way onto transfer printed wares.   One such book is The Hunt, Portrayed by J. F. Herring Sen., a 28 page publication by W.T. Copeland & Sons.  The book tells, in short, the story of J F Herring and offers images of examples of some of the variations and pieces from the Hunt series.

John Frederick Herring was born to an established commerce trader in London in 1795.   Though his father intended for his son to follow in the commerce business, he soon realized that young John lacked the qualifications.  It is said that from his toddler years on, John either held a brush or a whip in his hand.  

 Living in Surrey, coaches daily passed the door of John's home and of his fathers business.   John was utterly fascinated by them.  He would eagerly await their passing by.  He spent much of his time at a neighboring blacksmith's forge or an inn where the coaches would stop just so that he could watch the horses.  He never had a drawing lesson but nonetheless he began to produce the horses he so loved on paper.

Young Johns father thought his art to be a "love of idling" and because of those propensities he had not apprenticed his son to any trade.  When John turned 18 he realized that should his Father die, he would be completely destitute with no means of earning a living. This realization gestured him to leave home and seek his fortune.  With little money and no plan, John took an outside seat on The Royal Leeds Union coach to Doncaster, the sporting center of England.  By chance, he arrived during the races and followed a crowd to a race course, where he saw an historic race when the Duke of Hamilton's horse was the winner.  Excitedly, John rushed back to the humble room he had rented and painted a crude rendition of the race he'd just witnessed.  

Days later, completely broke and with absolutely no prospects whatsoever he wandered the streets of Doncaster and passed a coach builder's shop.  He saw a man painting a door to a coach, that of "Commander in Chief", the Duke of Wellington with his prize winning horse, but the horse he painted wasn't recognizable to John as a horse at all.  Herring took a pencil and sketched the outlines of the horse and showed them to the  painter assigned to the task of painting the coach doors.  He was so impressed that he begged John to undertake the painting for him.  While John was painting the door, the coach builder came in and he to was so impressed with John's work that he asked him to paint the doors of another coach.  This coach belonged to a Mr. Wood, who in turn was also so impressed with the painting that he asked John to call on him at his office.  But when John heard that there was an opening as a driver for Mr. Woods he immediately applied for that position knowing that, even though humble, it would provide a constant source of income.  He remained a coachman for the next seven years.

During this time he married and he and his wife had a son.   To supplement his income, John would paint signboards for inns and panels of coach doors.  His work was so appreciated that there were very few inns or coaches along the road he drove daily that did not have signboards which he had painted.  He became known as 'The Artist Coachman'.

One day John and a passenger, Mr. Stanhope,  got into a conversation which led John to ask him to come and see his drawings.  Stanhope was amazed by the "untutored accuracy of the innumerable sketches" and "the spirited appearance of the pictured animals, the radiant gloss of their coats, as well as the lifelike representation of certain gay jockeys in their bright satins".  He remarked, "what a pity to waste your time driving a coach".  Stanhope persuaded his brother to give a commission to paint a favorite chestnut horse to John.  The painting was so well done that it was eagerly shown to the Stanhope's friends, who in turn ordered their own sketches of horses and hounds.  Soon, the shared opinion of large land proprietors and country squires had emerged: John Herring was "wasting his time" as a coachman.  So compelled and sure of their opinion were they that several of them, in their own names, agreed to guarantee constant employment and remuneration to John for a year if he would abandon the whip for the brush.

John was very tempted by their offer and after hesitating he ultimately denied the opportunity due to knowing the poverty he had faced not long before and now having the added responsibility of a wife and child.  The means of a coachman were humble, but they were certain.

Four years later  John's employer had retired from business, and John's  reputation as an artist had grown and exceeded far beyond the Doncaster region.  The offer from Stanhope's friends was standing and at this time John decided to take it.  He spent the next three or four years going from one Yorkshire country house to another painting hunters and their favorite retrievers, horses and foxhounds.

It was then that John was introduced to Mr. William Taylor Copeland, Spode partner and eventually full owner, Lord Mayor of London and Member of Parliament for Stoke.  Copeland offered Herring a house on his own estate at Leyton in Essex and gave him numerous commissions for many pictures, many still in the Copeland family possession. 

Because there was no photography in those days, if an owner of a famous race horse wanted to memorialize the event or animal he would be obliged to have an artist render a painting or drawing.  John Herring became the artist to whom all applied.

As a poor, destitute boy who wandered into the race course at Doncaster I imagine the he himself never dreamed that he would someday be called to paint the winners of that famous race for an amazing thirty three consecutive years and winners of the Derby for eighteen years, not to speak of the many, many others.   His paintings became a pictorial history of the English Turf of 1821-1854 when it saw its heyday. 

Herring's fame spread amongst the general public as well due to numerous engravings made from his pictures.    George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria were some of his many commissioners.   John was given the title Animal Painter to Her Royal Highness.

While at Leyton,  John painted W.T. Copeland's horses, pictures of rural life, and an entire hunting scene series which are depicted on the pieces I've set my table with and shown below.  

The Spode/Copeland Hunt scenes by Herring series is one of the most popular and still very highly sought patterns.
It can be found in sepia and color versions as well as with several border and shape variations.  Below are some examples of these.

I have always liked this acorn and oak leaf border which is found on some other patterns by Spode, including the Ruins series.

Here, a beautiful floral border frames the hunt.
 Some have  a solid green or burgundy border

Black Polychrome (I have two bread plates left and they are for sale HERE along with the dinner plates used in my scape)

A little late I know, but HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all!