John Ferneley was one of the most gifted painters of sporting subjects of his generation and this magnificent picture - one of a relatively small number of large scale works of hunt in full cry - shows the artist at the very height of his powers. He was born at Thrussington, Leicestershire, the youngest son of a wheelwright. His artistic ability was first recognised by John, 5th Duke of Rutland, who noticed some pictures which he had painted on the side of a cart which his father, to whom he was apprenticed, had been working. The Duke is said to have persuaded Ferneley's father to allow him to become a pupil of Ben Marshall, himself of Leicestershire origin, who was then working in London. Ferneley studied and lodged with Marshall between 1801 and 1804 and was enrolled by him in the Royal Academy Schools. They developed a lasting friendship. After leaving Marshall's studio in 1804, Ferneley spent time in Norfolk and then at Lincoln where he first met Thomas Assheton Smith, who became a life-long friend, and for whom he painted several celebrated pictures of the Quorn. In 1809, returning from a year long stay in Ireland, he married Sally Kettle, of Gaddesby, near Melton. In 1814, they settled in Melton Mowbray, where he built a studio and later a house, Elgin Lodge. Ferneley flourished with a steady stream of patronage and his work became very fashionable. His patrons included many of the most famous sportsmen of the day, and members of some of the most prominent aristocratic families. Of the six children from his first marriage, Claude Lorraine, John, and Sarah, all became artists, while Charles, his son from his second marriage, to a Miss Allen, became a notable pioneer of photography.
Squire Wormald was a founder member of the Raby Hunt Bedale Club which is said to have been formed at the 'Black Swan', Bedale, in 1816. When Lord Darlington, Master of the Raby, gave up hunting the Bedale country in 1832, the Bedale Hunt was founded with Darlington's son-in- law, Mark Millbank, as its first Master. Although the picture has traditionally been identified as showing 'Squire Wormald with the Raby Hunt, Bedale Club', the riders are not wearing the Raby Hunt collar and the Bedale was not founded until four years after the picture was painted. It could show members of the Bedale Hunt Club but it could equally be in Leicestershire rather than Yorkshire. Wormald certainly hunted there.