Jacques-Laurent Agasse was born to an influential Huguenot family in Geneva. He spent much of his early childhood on their country estate at Crévin, where he grew up amongst dogs, horses and other animals. He studied art at the École du Colibri in Geneva before moving on to Paris, where he attended veterinary school to advance his knowledge of animal anatomy. His art education continued under Jacques-Louis David, the preeminent Neoclassical painter of his era.
After meeting in Geneva, George Pitt (Lord Rivers) invited Agasse to England, where he spent most of career. According to the German periodical Tübinger Morgenblatt, Pitt “asked him to paint his favourite dog (greyhound) which had died. The Englishman was so pleased with his work that he took the painter to England with him.” Produced about 1806, A Lady’s Grey Hunter is characteristic of the art that was then being patronized by wealthy English landowners, proud of their horses, dogs and livestock.
However, Agasse never achieved great commercial success. His manner was a bit too direct for his aristocratic patrons, his art too high-minded. In a 1916 retrospective for The Connoisseur, C. F. Hardy commented that “Agasse was as sincere in his art as in his verbal utterances. Consequently, though he painted horses innumerable, and many fine ones…the owners of famous winners, who were prepared to pay the highest prices for rapid, conventional work, rarely or never gave him a commission.”