Born in Blackfriars, Surrey, John Frederick senior was the son of Benjamin Herring (who was born in America under the British flag but was Dutch by descent). John’s father had moved to England and at the time of his birth was in business as fringe maker in Newgate Street, London and this was where J.F. Herring spent the first eighteen years of his life. He then moved to Doncaster.
He arrived in Doncaster in September 1814 just in time to see the Duke of Hamilton’s William win the St. Leger. On walking through Doncaster shortly after his arrival, he passed the coach depot and looking in, saw a coach painter having great difficulty in painting the horse on the crest on the side of the coach. Herring stopped and helped him and did the job so well he was asked to paint the crests on a new coach, The Royal Forrester. Having made this contact with the firm he discovered that the driver of the Wakefield to Lincoln coach was relinquishing his position. He passed his test and took the ribbons on the box of the Nelson the following Monday and hence began his career as a coach driver.
After two years on the Nelson, John Frederick senior transferred to the Doncaster Halifax coach on which he met Mr. Charles Spencer-Stanhope who was the most impressed with his painting and found his first serious commission for him.
A Mr. Hawkesworth had so much faith in him that he offered to guarantee him work for a whole year but Herring was cautious and declined the offer. After making a journey constantly throughout a hard winter, Herring decided to accept Hawkesworth’s offer. He was soon painting hunters and racehorses for many notable gentry. In 1818, he first exhibited at the RA where he was to exhibit only twenty-eight pictures throughout his life.
Some of Herring’s engravings were published in “The Annals of Sporting”, which spoke most highly of his work. In 1815, “The Doncaster Gazette” commissioned him to sketch annually the winner of the St. Leger, to be published as engravings. These were published by Messrs. Sheardown and Co., but the plates were later purchased and reissued by Messrs. Fuller of Rathbone Place. After this, Herring produced the series for Fullers until 1839 when began to produce a large annual print for Messrs. Bailey and continued to do so until 1847. He therefore produced thirty-three St. Legers winner in a row, and twenty-one consecutive Derby winners (1827-47).
Herring’s horse painting is, at its best, strong, powerful and sensitive. A large number of his works were engraved. He contributed to “The Sporting Review”, 1842-46, “Illustrated London News”, 1844-45, 1864, “The Illustrated Times”, 1859, and Bell’s “Life in London”.
The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists: Sally Mitchell, 1985