Born on 21 April 1841 at Blofield, Norfolk and died November 1st 1912.
Sporting and animal painter, and like many other sporting painters he was a keen and active sportsman, especially in the hunting field. He was the son of Henry William Emms, and he had four brothers and two sisters and one of his brothers William Richmond was President of the Royal Academy for twenty years. He is said to have studied under the neo-classical painter Frederick Leighton, who worked in Lyndhurst, and as his assistant, helped to execute the ‘Ten Virgins’ fresco at Lyndhurst Parish Church to which work he added his own embellishment. He met and married his wife Fanny Primmer on 5 November 1880 in Lyndhurst and they had three daughters and one son. His work is recognised by strong brushwork and generous applications of paint.
After his marriage he lived a bohemian life in London, affecting a long black cloak and a wide brimmed black hat. Through his hunting he found many clients and subjects but he was constantly short of money. Indeed, at one time he and his family were virtually destitute until a kind woman lent them a house, He was a particularly skillful painter of hounds, many of which he exhibited at the Suffolk Street Gallery from 1867 – 1885. He visited Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire on a number of occasions in the early 1880s where he painted several portraits of the famous Clumber spaniels belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle. On his return to Lyndhurst he built a large house and studio and named it ‘The Firs’, in Queens Road. Both John and Fanny are buried in Lyndhurst Cemetery.
In 1902, Emms suffered from a stroke, and although he continued painting until 1909, from then on struggled to support his family, succumbing to alcoholism. Exchanging paintings for drink with Ernest Harris, proprietor of The Stag Inn at Lyndhurst, it was a sad end to an estimable career.
Lived in London 1880, Lyndhurst, Hants 1887
Exhibited at:- Royal Institute of Artists, Birmingham x 1
Bruton Galleries x 1
Dudley Gallery and New Dudley Gallery x 1
Grosvenor Gallery x 2
Walker Art Gallery x 5
Manchester City Art Gallery x 8
Royal Academy x 14
Royal Society of British Artists x 19
Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours x 2
Royal Institute of Oil Painters x 3
For examples of his work see ‘Dog Painting 1840 – 1940’ by William Secord
The Dictionary of Equestrian Painters by Sally Mitchell, picture of Hunter and Hounds Page 211
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