ALKEN, Henry Thomas

1785 - 1851

Henry Thomas Alken, was born at 3 Dufours Place, Westminster, London on 12 October 1785, son of Samuel Alken (1756-1815), artist & engraver, and his wife Lydia née Woodley. After receiving his first art lessons from his father, young Henry was sent for instruction under John Thomas Barber Beaumont (1774-1841), a painter of miniatures. He exhibited twice at the Royal Academy, in each case miniatures of ladies (painted in 1801 and 1802), and displayed an early liking for depicting animals, especially dogs and horses and became the dominant sporting artist of the early nineteenth century. Henry married on 14 October 1809, Maria Gordon (1786-1841) of Ipswich, Suffolk, and for a while lived in that town, where their children Samuel Henry Gordon [q.v.], Siffrein [q.v.], Lydia Anne, Elizabeth and Ellen were born. Henry's first sporting prints were published in 1813, and he demonstrated his expertise in the book 'The Beauties and Defects in the Figure of the Horse Comparatively Delineated' (1816). He issued many sets of prints in wrappers and provided illustrations to a series of books, employing the pseudonym ‘Ben Tally Ho’ for his mildly satirical sallies, and often collaborating with his friend the sporting journalist Charles James Apperley (1779–1843), known as Nimrod. Henry maintained a connection with Ipswich, evident in 'A Cockney's Shooting Season in Suffolk' (1822) and 'The First Steeple-Chase on Record' (1839), which recorded a nocturnal romp by cavalry officers stationed at Ipswich in 1803 and became the single most popular set of sporting prints. 'The Beaufort Hunt' (1833) and 'The Quorn Hunt' (1835) were his most distinguished hunting sets. He wrote several books on aspects of engraving, including 'The Art and Practice of Engraving' (1849). Alken never used his second name, leading to confusion with his son Samuel Henry Gordon Alken, who also signed designs and paintings ‘H. Alken’ and precise authorship of the resulting prolific output remains difficult to disentangle. Later in life he drifted into ill-health, consumption, and poverty. After the death of his wife, at Spring Place, St Pancras, London, in 1841 he went to live with an unmarried daughter at Ivy Cottage, Highgate where he died in April 1851.

Works by This Artist