Artist date(s): 1787-1868
Artist nationality: British
The Day Family
Artwork date(s): 1838
Artwork type: Painting
Medium: oil on canvas
Inscription: Dated by the artist
Keywords: horse-racing; two jockeys on two horses; Day family and horse; open country
Reference ID: 1591
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Guy Paget, one of the mid-twentieth century connoisseurs of sporting art, praised The Day Family as the best work of Cooper’s entire career, noting that not only the human figures but the horses are individual portraits: “it shows Mrs Anne Day with Mrs John Day, her daughter-in-law, in a mule carriage; John stand on the left while the young John leans on the shaft of the carriage; Sam is shown on ‘Venison’ and William on ‘Chateau d’Espagne’…Alas, this picture is in South Africa.” (Apollo, Sept. 1949). Venison, centre-piece of this work, had been bred by John Day and went on to set a record of twelve wins in the 1836 English racing season. Abe Bailey’s son, James, recalled (in his unpublished biography of Abe Bailey) that his father’s own trainer at Newmarket was a man called Reggie Day and wondered whether his father knew of some family connection between the two families, or was prompted to buy the work because of the amusing coincidence.
Initially self-taught, Cooper was introduced by his uncle to famous sporting artist, Ben Marshall. From this time on, Marshall offered Cooper instruction, studio space and introductions to interested patrons, a role Cooper later went on to provide for young aspiring painters once he had established his own career. From 1811, Cooper became a prolific lifetime contributor of illustrations to The Sporting Magazine. He began to specialise in battle scenes, many of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1820, on the strength of this work, he was given full honorary membership of this institution, but he continued to produce many sporting paintings too.