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Famous Horse Artists
First Posted: Sept 10, 2007
Sep 7, 2010

John Wootton 1682-1764

by Debora Johnson

Not much is known about John Wootton's early life. In fact, historians cannot even agree on his birth date or birth place. It is believed that he was born in 1682 or 1683 in Snitterfield, Warwickshire. Nothing is really known about his family or early life. He is known for his sports paintings, most particularly his horse paintings. Wootton studied under several artists including Lambert, Siberedchts, and Jan Wyck a Dutch horse painter. He studied in Rome in 1710. While in Rome, Wootton would have been influenced by several painters such as Claude and Poussin. The third Duke of Beaufort took a special interest in Wootton. In his day, Wootton was considered a fashionable painter. He enjoyed the company and friendship of the rich and famous of the day. He was the first English painter to do portraits of horses. Often times, these paintings were life size. He would have portrait painters like Thomas Hudson and William Hogarth paint in the riders on the horse. The Earl of Egremont called Wootton the best horse painter in England. In fact, Wootton was thought to be the highest paid painter in England at this time.

The "Sport of kings," or horse racing, was quite popular in England in the 18th century. The aristocracy was enamored with its fine horseflesh and paid large sums of money for commissioned paintings. King George II, the Prince of Wales, Althorp, Longleat, and Badminton were among the rich and famous who commissioned Wootton to paint their animals.

John Wootton was a founder member of the Royal Academy. His inner circle of friends included such notables as Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Alexander Pope and William Kent. Wootton was well respected and embraced by these individuals and society of his time. In fact, a number of these notables owned some of his paintings. Horses were Wootton's mainstay, however, he also painted dogs, racing, military scenes, and hunting scenes. In his later years he painted landscapes inspired from his time in Italy. However, painting spirited thoroughbred horses is the reason he is remembered today.

His work can be found in many galleries around the world including the Tate Gallery, London, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia, The Royal Collection, London, UK, Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, UK, Boughton House, Northamptonshire, UK, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK, Denver Art Museum/Berger Collection, Colorado, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK, Norwich Museums, England, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.

John Wootton died in London, England in 1764. He was 82 years of age.

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The first picture above is called Mounted Officer, the second Darley Arabian, and the third A Bay Horse Got By the Leeds Arabian

"Lady Conaway's Spanish Jennet"

In the late 17th century the Leedes Arabian was imported into England. Edward Leedes of North Millforth, Yorkshire, acquired the Arabian. Note that the groom is in Arabian costume. The painter wanted to indicate that the horse was bred and reared in Arabia. The background of this painting can be seen in other paintings done by Wootton. You can view A Bay Horse Led Towards a Rubbing-Down House at Newmarket, also painted in 1715. It and other race horse paintings, by Wootton, have the same or similar background composition.


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