1: The Starting Field
Coloured aquatintpublished 24 April 1848
About the work
This is one of a series of prints, after works by Henry Alken, published as 'Fores's Steeple-Chase Scenes'. In July 1848 ‘The New Sporting Magazine’ reviewed the series as follows:
‘The present series of Steeple Chase Scenes consists of half a dozen coloured engravings from Mr. Alken’s drawings… A better batch, we have no hesitation in declaring, was never picked from publisher’s porte-feuille. The artist has hit off the bit of blood taking the fence, in the second plate, to a nicety. You’ve no scruples about the cattle and riders having the right stuff in them. Animated by the scene, you feel, with [playwright James Sheridan] Knowles’s Constance [a character from the comedy The Love Chase]–
‘Then the leap!
To see the saucy barrier, and know
The mettle that can clear it!’
The whole set must be mentioned as remarkable for displaying prominent and pleasing characteristics of artistic skill and excellence, that undeniably denotes the consummate ability, and varied talents of both painter and engraver.’
About the artist
John Harris III was an aquatint engraver of sporting and military subjects after works by contemporary artists. He was born in London and may have been the son of the watercolourist, illustrator and lithographer known as John Harris II. However, it has also been suggested that he was the son of a cabinet maker. Harris remained in London for the duration of his life and worked mainly for the publisher Ackermann and Fores.
Henry Thomas Alken was born in Soho, London; the son of artist and printmaker Samuel Alken. His brothers Sefferein and Samuel became sporting artists, while George was a designer and lithographer. Alken studied under his father, followed by miniaturist John Thomas Barber Beaumont. In 1809 he married Maria Gordon of Ipswich, Suffolk, and remained in Ipswich for a time. His five children were all born there. In 1813 his first sporting prints were published. He went on to produce numerous designs for sporting printsellers, using the pseudonym Ben Tally Ho for satirical subjects. He was also a prolific printmaker himself and wrote books on engraving. At his death, he was living in relative poverty with his unmarried daughter in Highgate.