Thomas Stringer 1772-1790
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Thomas Stringer 1772-1790

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Mr Heron of Daresbury galloping on his bay hunter exercising hounds


Oil painting on canvas 24½ x 35½ inches and contained in its original carved and gilded Georgian frame


Provenance: Commissioned by George Heron of Daresbury Hall, Cheshire and by descent to Lieutenant-General Peter Heron (1770-1849) of Moor Hall, Cheshire; his widow, and then by descent to her great-niece Cecilia Widdrington (nee Gregge-Hepwood), wife of Shalcross FitzHerbert Widdrington, General B.F. Widdrington DSO of Newton Hall, Felton, Morpeth, Northumberland and thence by descent to Capt. Francis Newton Heron Widdrington (1920-2008)


The present painting is one of a group of at least four pictures commissioned from the artist by the Heron family in and about 1776

Thomas Stringer as a young man showed much natural talent as an animal painter, but his initial employment was as a servant by Peter Legh of Booths Hall, Knutsford, (born 4 March 1727/8 and died 12 August 1804) a member of an ancient Cheshire gentry family who owned several large houses in the area, including the palatial Lyme Hall (now National Trust). Legh had built Booths Hall in 1745 on the site of an earlier Tudor black-and-white half-timbered house of the typical Cheshire type. Stringer's relationship with Legh, however, was difficult, and after an argument, Stringer left his employer “to become a full-time artist” and was "much encouraged by the neighbouring gentry, especially for his portraits of horses, in which he evinced uncommon skill". (Quoted from William Ford, (a Manchester bookseller), “The Stringer Family, Father and Sons, of Knutsford.” published in the November 1881 issue of The Palatine Note-book).

During a relatively short career of some twenty years (he died at the age of 38) Stringer was relatively prolific. By the late 20th century, though, he had sunk into considerable obscurity and his oeuvre was scarcely to be identified. Many of his works were confused with those of Francis Sartorius (1734-1804) who also worked at times in Cheshire, largely on account of their similar monograms: Stringer's cursive “T.S.” was frequently mis-read for “F.S.” and hence given to Sartorius – even though the latter almost never signs his works with his initials.

Recent research, though, has clarified most aspects of his career, and that of members of his family who were also artists. This research was published by Marjorie Carnie (British Sporting Art Trust, essay 37, Winter 1999/2000). It is now clear that Stringer is a more solid and sophisticated painter than Sartorius, and his works shows an awareness of the work of the great George Stubbs
Stringer's style is idiosyncratic and his technique is readily recognisable. One of his more endearing and eccentric traits is to paint part of his subject matter disappearing behind another part of the composition. This is typical of his portraits of Horse and Groom, which often, as here, show the groom standing behind the horse, with only legs and head and shoulders visible.

There are paintings by Stringer in many old houses in Lancashire and Cheshire, including Dunham Massey (National Trust) and Peover Hall. His work is also in Chester Museum, and in the Mellon Collection at Yale.