Qualified Horses and Unqualified Riders – Ben Tally Ho

Ben Tally Ho was the pen name of Henry Thomas Alken, Sr. (1785-1851).  He was a fine huntsman who convincingly portrayed the details of the hunt.  At a time when most British sporting artists somewhat repetitiously painted well-seated, immobile riders surrounded by their dogs prior to a hunt, Alken produced simple, yet active caricatures.  We stumbled upon him in our brief journey across the Atlantic to learn more about the artist of Not Yet Caught

Alken was the most famous of four generations of artists.  The first was his grandfather, a carver; the second, his father, an engraver and architects. The third generation included two brothers as well as himself, all sporting artists.  His two sons, also sporting artists, comprised the fourth generation.  

Alken portrayed not only hunting, but all the popular sports of the late 18th  and early 19th centuries: shooting, racing, bull- and bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and fishing.  Under his illustrations, he penned commentary.  As an example, “You must have no more fellow-feeling in fox-hunting than you have in your political career.”  (How to Qualify for a Meltonian, 1819, quoted in Diana Donald, Picturing Animals in Britain: 1750-1850, Yale University Press, 2007, 288).  

Alken’s fame faded quickly after he published a flurry of books with titles such as Qualified Horses and Unqualified Riders, 1815,  and Some Do, Some Don’t, It’s all a Notion, 1817.  The public wearied of his type of humor.  He died nearly destitute.  

From the 1815 book, Qualified Horses and Unqualified Riders published by S. & J. Fuller, London. More works by Alken can be found at British Sporting Arts Trust, Newmarket, Suffolk, England.

 

Plate 2 Topping a Flight of Rails and Coming into the Next Field (but not well)

Plate 2 Topping a Flight of Rails and Coming into the Next Field (but not well) The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.2

 

Plate 3 Charging an Ox Fence (with good success)

Plate 3 Charging an Ox Fence (with good success) The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.3

 

Plate 4 Got in and Getting Out (very clever) The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.4

Plate 4 Got in and Getting Out (very clever) The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.4

 

Plate 5 Facing a Brook (verifying the old adage, look before you leap) The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.5

Plate 5 Facing a Brook (verifying the old adage, look before you leap) The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.5

 

Plate 6 Plunging through the Hedge The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.6

Plate 6 Plunging through the Hedge The British Sporting Arts Trust 1984.024.6

About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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