Gilpin, who was born at Scaleby Castle, near Carlisle, was sent to London in 1747 where he was apprenticed to Samuel Scott, who lived in Covent Garden, from 1749 to 1756. It was this environment which inspired Gilpin's passion for drawing the horses which brought supplies to the market. Gilpin's work appears to have drawn the attention of Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who became one of the artist's earliest and most loyal patrons - several key works by the artist remain in the Royal Collection. Other important patrons included Colonel Thornton and later, Samuel Whitbread, M.P. After George Stubbs, he was the greatest painter of horses of the day, and he became president of the Society of Artists, where he exhibited many works.