John Emms was born at Blofield, Norfolk in 1843.  (While Emms is shown as 71 on his death certificate in 1912, the census return for Blofield in 1841 does not mention him; in 1851 he is shown as aged 7.  He also appears aged 48 in the 1891 Census at Queen’s Road, Lyndhurst. 


Working in London, he briefly spent time at Lyndhurst assisting Lord Leighton, whose fresco in the Church of St Michael and St George was completed in 1864.   Emms left London for Lyndhurst in 1869, and in November 1880 married the daughter of a New Forest official.  Emms immediately returned to London with his new wife, where he set up home in Beaufort Street, Chelsea, then a artists’ colony.   Emms also had a studio in Leicester Square, and  became famous for his dress and somewhat Bohemian lifestyle. 


John and Fanny Emms returned to Lyndhurst in 1886 to build a large house in Queens Road called “The Firs” (the house is still standing today, with the original kennels etc.).  In 1902 Emms suffered a stroke which limited his activities so far as travelling around the country was concerned.  He drank, and things went from bad to worse until they had to sell “The Firs” in 1911.  They lived in lodging across the road until he died on 1st November 1912.  Over 150 paintings by Emms, traded for booze at the Stag, Lyndhurst, were taken to Australia by the emigrating publican a few fews later; some are now beginning to trickle back to this country.


A noted sporting and hunting enthusiast, Emms received many commissions through his contacts made in the field, and to quote Sally Mitchell "...his dog pictures are outstanding" (ref. The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists).  Emms exhibited his first painting at the Royal Academy in 1866, and went on to exhibit many more times at the Academy as well as in Suffolk Street.