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Abraham Cooper RA 1787-1868
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Abraham Cooper RA 1787-1868

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Portrait of Daniel Haigh of the Old Surrey on his dark bay hunter “Kitten” in a rolling landscape.


Oil painting on canvas 34 x 44 inches in its fine giltwood frame


Engraved in mezzotint by W. Giller – not dated and without publication line.


Literature: Sally Mitchell, Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists (Woodbridge 1984) illus. p166

Daniel Haigh of Tooting was Master of the Old Surrey Hunt from 1820 to 1836, succeeding Mr Maberley, a speculator and Army contractor who had antagonised many local farmers with his high-handed manner. Haigh, by contrast, proved a popular Master. His huntsman was Tom Hills, who served the Old Surrey for forty-five seasons, from 1816 to 1861, beginning at the age of fifteen.
The Old Surrey was immortalised by the Co. Durham landowner and sporting writer Robert Surtees (1805-1864) through his famous comic creation Mr Jorrocks, keen rider to hounds and ‘substantial grocer in St Botolph’s Lane, with an elegant residence in Great Coram Street’. Surtees caricatured the vogue among City men – as opposed to the ‘swells’ of the Shires – to take up foxhunting. ‘The members of the Surrey are the people that combine business with pleasure, and even in the severest run can find time for sweet discourse, and talk about the price of stocks or stockings. “Yooi wind him there, good dog, yooi wind him.” “Cottons is fell.” . The Old Surrey is reputed to have been founded by Mr Gobsall, who kennelled a pack at Bermondsey in the middle of the eighteenth century. By 1808 the London banker Mr Snow hunted from kennels at Godstone. The hunt was followed by many London brokers and merchants in the nineteenth century. ‘For their convenience, in the early days, hunting was stopped at 1.00 p.m., and the green collar which is still worn is said by some to have originated from the anxiety of City men to arrive on ‘Change by 4.00 p.m., and appearing to wear their business green under their overcoats, thus giving the impression that they had been at work all day’
 Even in Daniel Haigh’s day, the Old Surrey’s country was constantly under threat from the creeping expansion of the London suburbs. In 1915, the Old Surrey and Burstow Hunts amalgamated in order to maintain adequate country; the hounds were moved to Felbridge, near East Grinstead, where they are still kennelled today. In the late 1940s hounds sometimes met at Chartwell, home of Winston Churchill. In 1999 the hunt amalgamated with the West Kent to form the Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent, whose country covers some forty-two miles east to west and thirty miles north to south in Surrey, Sussex and Kent. It is still known popularly as ‘Jorrocks’s Hunt Club’.

Abraham Cooper’s life spans the great years of sporting painting: when he was born, Stubbs was establishing his reputation as the greatest of English painters; when he died, Landseer was retiring from painting. His work thus spans both the greatest of the Georgian and the best of the Victorian, and he has a place of especial honour amongst the sporting painters of this Golden Age.

This animal and battle painter was born on 8th September 1787 in Holborn, London. He showed an early aptitude for drawing and at the age of 13 he went to work for his uncle, William Davis, who was then manager of Astley’s Circus; a circus famous for its spectacular equestrian dramas, providing the boy with the opportunity to study horses at first hand. After Cooper set about painting a portrait of a horse which he had often ridden, William Davis secured for his nephew a place in the studio of the celebrated horse-painter Ben Marshall, where he received instruction and was introduced to prospective patrons. He also studied and copied illustrations in The Sporting Magazine and became a contributor himself in 1811 with the portrait of a pointer.

Cooper was prolific: 189 of his paintings were engraved for The Sporting Magazine; he sent 332 paintings to the Royal Academy beginning in 1812, and another 87 to other London Exhibition venues. He was amongst the most popular painters of equine and canine portraiture, with an exalted clientele. He was popularly known as the “English Horace Vernet”.

The vigour of his drawing is rooted in the classical age to which he was born, but the high and lustrous “finish” on his paintings presages the work of Herring, (who was his pupil), Landseer and the high Victorians.

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