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William Henry Davis
19th Century oil painting of a dray cart & shire horses in a brewery yard

1839

About the Item

William Henry Davis British, (1783-1865) The Brewery Yard Oil on canvas, signed & dated 1839 Image size: 27 inches x 35 inches Size including frame: 33.25 inches x 41.25 inches This painting by William Henry Davis features draymen preparing a team of dray horses in the courtyard of a brewery. Dray horses or draught horses were a large breed of horses adapted for drawing heavy loads. During the 19th century, there were 3 main breeds used in Britain: Shire, Clydesdale and Suffolk Punch. The Shire horse and Suffolk Punch were the predominant breeds in Britain and were more commonly used for transporting beer barrels, especially in London. There would usually be a team of two or three horses pulling a dray with a ‘drayman’ to drive and a ‘trouncer’ to help load and unload the kegs. Polished horse brasses also became popular during this period and the Breweries would have the harnesses of their horses decorated with brass motifs. The dray horses became a symbol of prestige and were an impressive sight that helped promote the brewery in a highly competitive market. The motif of an anchor can clearly be seen on the horse brasses worn by the 3 dray horses. This undoubtedly refers to the Anchor Brewery based at Park Street, Southwark in London. The Anchor Brewery was established in 1616 by James Monger and at one time was the largest brewery in the world. From 1781 it was owned by Barclay Perkins & Co and merged with Courage Brewery in 1955. Brewing continued at the Anchor site until the early 1970’s. William Henry Davis was born in Chelsea in 1783 to Richard and Sarah Davis (née Barrett). His father was huntsman to King George III and his brother Charles Davis became Huntsman for Queen Victoria. His older brother Richard Barrett Davis (1782-1854) was also an animal artist. Davis undoubtedly received an artistic education, most likely alongside his brother and is known to have travelled to Rome to study. In 1803, at around the age of 20 he made his debut at the Royal Academy, continuing to exhibit there throughout his life. Although some of his early works included portraits and figures, he quickly focussed on painting sporting animals such as horses and greyhounds. He began exhibiting at the British Institute in 1817 and by 1818 had attracted the patronage of the Earl of Ilchester. As his reputation for painting portraits of horses and dogs grew he also began receiving commissions to paint cattle and sheep. From 1828, he exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists. In 1837 he became Animal Painter to William IV and later Queen Victoria in 1839. He lived for most of his life in Chelsea living at Church Lane but would travel around the country to work on commissions. As well as painting portraits of livestock for wealthy landowners, Davis was also commissioned by The Farmer magazine to produce a series of paintings which were reproduced as engravings. He spent his final years living at 9 Upper Church Street, Chelsea. He died at his home on the 8 December, 1864 and was buried at Brompton Cemetery. Examples of his work are held by the Leicestershire Museum, Museum of Lincolnshire Life, National Army Museum, National Trust, Royal Agricultural University Collection and the Suffolk Punch Heavy Horse Museum. The National Trust Attingham Park holds a large collection of his portraits of prize winning cattle. Presentation: The painting is housed in a new, English made gilt frame which is in excellent condition. Condition: As with all of our original antique oil paintings, this work is offered in ready to hang gallery condition, having been professionally cleaned, restored and revarnished. © Benton Fine Art
  • Creator:
    William Henry Davis (1786 - 1865, English)
  • Creation Year:
    1839
  • Dimensions:
    Height: 33.25 in (84.46 cm)Width: 41.25 in (104.78 cm)Depth: 2.5 in (6.35 cm)
  • Medium:
  • Movement & Style:
  • Period:
  • Condition:
  • Gallery Location:
    Moreton-In-Marsh, GB
  • Reference Number:
    1stDibs: LU156212047932
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