John Emms is today one of the best known of the animal painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Born on April 21 1843 near Blowfield, Emms was the son of the artist Henry William Emms. His passion for painting took him to London, where he became an apprentice to the well-known academician, Lord Frederick Leighton. As Leighton’s assistant, he helped with the creation of ‘The Ten Virgins’ fresco in Lynshurst Church, and his visits to the area encouraged him to buy a house in Lynshurst in 1872. There he met a steady stream of customers for his work, which he augmented by regular trips to other parts of the country. Emms exhibited his work at the Royal Academy from as early as the mid-1860s, and he won numerous awards during his life in London and Paris. In 1880 he married Fanny Primmer and settled in London before returning to Lyndhurst in 1888 and remaining there until his death.
While his early work is often more finished, John Emms is known for his quick, confident and vigorous brush strokes and limited palette that is more apparent in the later paintings. The best of his work exhibits a painterly style that gives his subjects a distinctive vitality and personality.
Emms’s paintings can be seen in the National Gallery of Scotland, Southampton Art Gallery, and the Russell-Coats Art Gallery, Bournemouth.