British, 1843–1912

“Born on April 21st at Blofield, Norfolk, John Emms was the son of Henry William Emms, an artist.  He had four brothers and two sisters; his elder sister married Canon Richmond, brother of Sir William Richmond who was president of the RA for twenty years. Little is known of his early life, but his interest in art took him to London.  It is said that as Lord Leighton's assistant he first went to Lyndhurst to help in the execution of the fresco 'The ten virgins' in Lyndhurst Parish Church, where he added the owl, the symbol of sloth.  

John Emms first exhibited in the RA in 1866, and in 1872 he returned to Lyndhurst.  His ability to paint animals soon found him clients; as an accomplished horseman his activities in the hunting field doubtless helped in finding subjects and customers for his work.

On 5th November, 1880, he married Fanny Primmer, the daughter of a Lyndhurst gentleman.  They are shown in the register as of 'full-age', but it would appear that John Emms was thirty-nine, and Fanny fifteen years his junior.  There were three daughters and one son of the marriage.

After his marriage Emms worked from a studio in London until the 'eighties, some records say until 1883, some 1888, then returned to Lyndhurst and built a large house and studio named 'The Firs' in Queen's Road.

It is said that Emms always wore a long black cloak and a wide brimmed black hat; he and his family lived a fairly Bohemian way of life. When he sold a picture he would take the family to London, where they stayed at the best hotels, bought new clothes and generally 'lived it up' until the money was spent.

Early in this century Emms suffered ill-health and was unable to work, and at one time the village tradesmen had his pictures on their walls in lieu of payment of their accounts.  Things were so bad that the family became destitute. In spite of warnings that ‘you will never get any rent' a kindly landlady was so sorry for Mrs. Emms that she let them have a house, and although often many months overdue the rent was always paid. Emms died on November 1st, aged seventy-one.  He and his wife are buried in Lyndhurst Cemetery.

His work is very free and strong with direct brush strokes, and at times slightly sentimental.  His dog pictures are outstanding, and his horse portraits very competent though at times a little uninteresting. He was quite a prolific artist, working mainly in oil and occasionally in watercolour.  This information came from a close friend of the artist's daughter.” (Sally Mitchell, The Dictionary of Equestrian Artists, Woodbridge, 1985, pp. 210-211)

Museum Collections:
Hackney Museum, London
Museums Sheffield, Sheffield
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
National Trust, Tatton Park, Knutsford
New Forest District Council Offices, Lyndhurst
New Forest Museum and Library, Lyndhurst
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth
Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton
Torre Abbey Historic House and Art Gallery, Torquay

Mark Murray Fine Paintings is a New York gallery specializing in buying and selling 19th century and early 20th century artwork. 

Please contact us if you are interested in selling your John Emms paintings or other artwork from the 19th century and early 20th century. 

John Emms Paintings Previously Sold

JOHN EMMS    Hounds at Rest   Oil on canvas 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48.2 cm)  SOLD

Hounds at Rest
Oil on canvas
13 x 19 inches (33 x 48.2 cm)

JOHN EMMS    The Whipper-In   Oil on canvas 18 x 26 inches (45.7 x 66 cm)  SOLD

The Whipper-In
Oil on canvas
18 x 26 inches (45.7 x 66 cm)