The roots of British Sporting painting really lie in the Low Countries, but for practical purposes Francis Barlow (1626-1702) in the 17th century can be seen as the true British School. It developed and perhaps reached culminating point with the great George Stubbs, ARA (fl.1837-1860) of the nineteenth century that perhaps are most popular and certainly most understood and collected today.
John Ferneley Snr (1782-1860), John Frederick Herring Snr (1795-1865), Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, RA (1802-1873), Dean Wolstenholme Jnr (1798-1882), Charles Cooper Henderson (1803-1877), James Pollard (1792-1867), Henry Alken Snr (1785-1851), and John Dalby (fl.1826-1853) are a few of the well-known artists that were contemporaries of James Barenger.
Between 1700 and 1900, racing and hunting subjects provided most commissions for the sporting artist, but in the life of rural England, many other diversions played a prominent role, in particular shooting, coursing and angling. Many of the paintings they inspired possess a simple and quiet intimacy of personal experience, for although few sporting artists had the means or opportunity to follow hounds, most enjoyed sport with gun or rod. As a result, shooting and angling pictures were rarely the product of direct commissions, but often a record of personal pleasures. Herein, to a great degree, lies their attractions, and the popularity of the engravings they gave rise to.
In 18th century England, sporting activities were very much local concerns, set around the stately homes. The fact that a quarter of the peers were educated at home meant that the sons of these families were involved in field sports from early youth. Tutors and the Grammar School sufficed, but competence with horse and gun was considered most necessary.
James Barenger was the son of a painter and glazier of Kentish Town, a breeder of pointers and a painter of insects. From 1807 to 1831 his paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and at Suffolk Street.