Coursing, whose origins can be traced back to carvings and murals in the Valley of the Kings, was a particularly popular sport during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By comparison with fox and stag-hunting, it was relatively inexpensive and easy to organise, and such was its following that by the time the Waterloo Cup was first run in 1836, it attracted more interest and betting than any other sporting event. Seymour painted several coursing scenes and it has been suggested that the principal figure on the grey may be Fulwer, 4th Lord Craven of Hampstead Marshall, Berkshire, who is depicted coursing at Ashdown Park in another work by the artist.
James Seymour was born in London, the son of a banker, goldsmith, and diamond merchant, who supplied plate for racing trophies. Seymour's father was also an amateur artist and a member of the Virtuosi Club of St. Luke, to which the leading sporting artists John Wootton and Peter Tillemans belonged. It is therefore perhaps not suprising that Seymour should have chosen the career of an artist. Although Seymour had no formal training, he began to draw at early age and Vertue mentions that 'from his infancy' he 'had a genius to drawings of Horses'. He also studied pictures and prints in his father's collection and copied old masters. Encouraged by his father, he received an entree into the London art world with introductions to the leading artists of the day. Seymour worked largely at Newmarket and attracted many patrons as well as developing a strong interest of his own in racing and may have owned his own horses.
When sold at Christie's in 1977, the present work was part of an interesting collection of sporting pictures. Two other examples by Seymour in the group included a Full Cry (lot 47, 17,000), a version of which was sold in these Rooms, 14 November 1997, lot 83 (199,500).