Horsley was encouraged to become an artist by his uncle, Sir Augustus Wall Callcott RA, and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1831. His early exhibited pictures were portraits and historical paintings influenced by Dutch 17th-Century masters such as Pieter de Hooch. However from the 1850s onwards Horsley turned to contemporary subjects, often painting the area around Cranbrook in Kent, which became a small artists’ colony. Thomas Webster moved there in 1857 followed by Horsley in 1861. Although the Cranbrook artists did not have a common philosophy they shared an interest in painting scenes of rural life.