As a student at the Royal Academy, James Clarke Hook won the first medals in the life and painting schools in 1842 and went on to win the gold medal for historical painting in 1844. In 1846 he obtained the travelling pension of the Royal Academy for three years and went to Italy but after eighteen months he gave up half his pension and returned to England. J. C. Hook rapidly became established as a leading painter of historical genre, noted for his use of strong colour showing the influence of the Venetian artists. In his mature work J. C. Hook turned mostly to rustic genre and especially to genre coastal scenes. James Clarke Hook was an accomplished original etcher and an early member of the Etching Club. His highly finished etchings are some of the finest examples of popular Victorian art to have emerged from the Etching Club.