There’s a lot happening right now. Currently on view is Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature and upcoming is Field Notes | Walter Matia. In between the two was a mini reveal which you may have seen on social media two weeks ago.

NSLM Facebook post, May 24, 2021

We recently received a donation of two large equine sculptures by artist Diana Reuter-Twining, Maestro and Equipoise. First, a hearty kudos to everyone involved with this. It was a very exciting, hold-your-breath few minutes as they were rolled into the gallery. Second, we are beyond delighted to have these join our permanent collection.

Though I had seen pictures of both, it did not quite prepare me for seeing them in person. Maestro depicts a horse with a leg outstretched on top of a ball and on its base is the Fibonacci spiral. As I much as I enjoy both sculptures equally, this blog will be devoted to Equipoise.

Equipoise shows a horse on one end of a balance beam and a dancer on the other. It struck me immediately. The dancer, in particular, with her bare feet, outstretched hands, and wild hair just put a smile on my face. My mind, then, started jumping all around my art history textbook. Hold on tight and follow this crazy train if you can.

Diana Reuter-Twining (American, b. 1951), Equipoise, 2019 bronze, 76 x 52 x 16 inches, Gift of the artist, 2021

Association 1: Verrocchio’s David has always fascinated me because there does not seem to be any way to distinguish between the top half of the subject’s armor and his skin. I understand that a cuirass often had extraordinary detail on it, from emphasizing musculature to military campaign highlights and mythological lineage (looking at you, Augustus), but this goes beyond that. There are visible straps but you can also see his belly button and rib cage.

It seems to be one in a way that is very similar to Reuter-Twining’s dancer and her leotard. We do not see where one stops and one begins.

Association 2:

My brain then skipped ahead to Paris at the turn of the 20th century, the dancer Loie Fuller, and a poster of her by French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901).

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901). Miss Loïe Fuller, 1893. Color lithograph on wove paper, Sheet: 15 × 10 1/4 in. (38.1 × 26 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 39.25 

It is one of the many advertisement posters he created of various dancers and singers. Though posters had been around for a while, this era of the fin de siècle is when it really develops as an art form. They were also cheap to produce, which was important as performances were often limited engagements. Their size and format were made to fit lamp poles and posts. How else does one attract the attention of the passersby?

Loie Fuller was a solo artist who was known for elaborate routines that choreographed the movement of her body and her long dresses with that of light and color. Her costumes included long skirts and sleeves that billowed as she twisted and turned.

Here is a link a video of someone performing in her style, sometimes called a “serpentine dance.” Though the beginning of the video says it is of her, it actually is not. There is no video in existence of her performing.

What made me think of this poster in particular though is the similarity between the hair of Reuter-Twining’s dancer and Fuller’s expansive costume. The hair looks like it is swept in a frenzy much like Fuller’s dress.

Equipoise (detail)

Association 2.5:

In another five seconds, my mind jumped from Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster to his depictions of circuses…

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Circus,
late 19th century

…which then took me to Association 3: George Seurat.

Georges Seurat (French. 1859-1891), Le Cirque, 1891,
oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches, Musée d’Orsay

The connection here is probably a lot more obvious. It was like my mind was whirring through a rolodex – going all the way to “V”, skipping up a bit and alighting on “T” (“not quite what I’m looking for”) and then flipped back to “S” (“ah yes, there you are.”).

With all that said though, Reuter-Twining’s sculpture is its own tour de force. Her dancer is visibly all muscle, unlike Seurat’s lithe bareback rider. Our dancer’s legs are thicker, which is testament to her training. Her bare feet make this very spontaneous for me and as someone who removes her shoes at every opportunity (including sitting at my desk writing blogs…), I appreciate another bare footed individual. The dancer’s nose is slightly upturned giving her a spritely look.

The horse was influenced by the Lipizzaner breed, which can be seen in the stalwart pose, again the opposite of Seurat. Whereas his looks weightless and ethereal, Reuter-Twining’s is solid and strong.

Equipoise (detail)

On the dancer and horse are circles traced into the patina that adds texture and a dynamism to the figures.

It also, for me, subtly reinforces the circus, as does the balance beam. But it also goes deeper than that. I like to think that the force of the dancer is what keeps her from flying off, which is technically what should happen when there is a 1,000-pound horse on the other end. Instead, she remains deftly and firmly on her side.

Make sure to stop by and see Reuter-Twining’s sculptures in the Intro Gallery. The Museum is open between 10 am and 4:30 pm. Ticketed access is still recommended but walk-ups are welcome!

Thank you for sticking with me through this art stream of consciousness (though I may have revealed too much of my inner workings). I mostly blame the allergy meds. Stay tuned for Part 2 on my more coherent discussion on Maestro.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

A frequent question I receive in my work is in which country sports I participate. Some people are surprised to learn that I have not focused on any of the disciplines myself, learning about them by observing, reading, and asking lots of questions of experts.

I have not been riding since I was 8 years old. Like any self-respecting little girl, however, I was obsessed with horses but tragically lived in the suburbs of New Jersey with no farms nearby. I grew up in an outdoorsy and adventurous family though, spending summers camping across the U.S. and parts of Canada or visiting relatives in Austria and Germany and winters skiing. Hiking, biking, swimming, sailing, row boating, and the occasional alpine slide ride were standard fare on trips, and we even tried three-wheeling and another time parasailing over Lake George.  

My big chance to ride came on one of our family vacations when the Martha’s Vineyard KOA Campground sign was in sight after a long drive. A nearby hand-spray-painted piece of plywood beckoned, “Horseback Riding Lessons.” I knew it would be an expensive undertaking, so the balancing act of asking nicely without being too much of a pest commenced. My brother wanted to ride too: our parents caved!

Horseback Riding Lesson on Martha’s Vineyard, 1980

Although the Kodachrome 64 slides my dad took do not show it, it is one of the most exhilarating memories of my childhood. I now laugh at the not-so-subtle reminder of the haircut I gave myself the winter before and the annoying wisp of hair that was growing out. A la 1980, we did not wear helmets during our lesson. My brother was almost bucked off. I tried not to laugh while astride my strawberry roan, whose name I surprisingly cannot remember, feeling like I was sitting on top of the world. She was a stubborn cuss who liked to eat grass. The sage advice that echoes in memory from my riding instructor is, “Feel the rhythm of the horse.”

My family is competitive, so every activity required 100% effort and engagement. It was usually fun but sometimes frustrating being the youngest by four years always trying to keep up. When we were not outside, we expended pent up energy playing ping pong in the enclosed porch.  Then my brother got a pellet rifle from our uncle, and we had a new indoor pastime—target shooting in the basement. We quickly fashioned ourselves crack shots, and I distinctly remember attracting a small crowd of teenagers at a volksfest watergun game booth once.

As an adult, I have enjoyed going to the gun range but never aimed at a moving target until a recent staff outing to take a beginner lesson with National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) certified shooting instructor Isobel Ziluca at her Crockett’s Shooting Club in Upperville, VA. Sporting clay clubs and tournaments are set up with several machines that throw different size clay targets to simulate shooting waterfowl, upland birds, and rabbit. The sport was brought to the United States from England in the 1980s, and the NSCA was founded in 1989.

Left to right: Claudia Pfeiffer, NSCA Instructor Isobel Ziluca, NSLM Executive Director Elizabeth von Hassell, NSLM Director of Development Reid O’Connor. photography NSLM Marketing Manager Cynthia Kurtz

Isobel asked about my experience and offered the first bit of advice, “You’ll need to keep both eyes open.” She let me use her Beretta .20 gauge, a great beginner gun. She explained the benefit of reduced recoil of the semi-automatic action: no shoulder or chin bruises in learning to hold the stock against the shoulder and firmly rest the cheek on it.

photography Cynthia Kurtz

Isobel’s range is set up in a semi-circle with the shooter at a stationary location. Most machines throw targets in the air and one on the ground at a set arc and direction across the field, away, or toward the shooter. No two trajectories are exactly the same, being affected by wind and weather. We started with thrower 1A which sends a clay away from the shooter in an arc from the left. I was not scared, but nervous adrenaline was pumping a bit too strongly. I hoped she did not notice that was I was shaking.

There is a lot to remember: point your body, one foot behind the other leaning forward, in the direction where you will want to pull the trigger but aim where the clay will leave the machine. Maintain soft focus, find and trace the path of the clay, sharpen focus, aim at the “belly of the bird,” and pull the trigger when your instincts say, “Go!” I had a hard time focusing past the gun barrel at the clay at first and following my gut. It was an entirely new concept instead of aligning the post and notch with a target.

Isobel was patient and encouraging as I missed several clays. Then it all came together for the first time. I leaned into it and pulverized a target. It was an accident, but it still felt good. My colleague captured the moment. After that, I found myself wanting to analyze and recreate the moment over and over. It is highly addictive.

After several tries, Claudia Pfeiffer gets a solid hit. photography Cynthia Kurtz

I have already had a second lesson (wearing a dress no less) and I got moldable earplugs as a gift for Mother’s Day. I think it is safe to say that I see more clay target lessons in my future.


Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

I have always been an equestrian. I took my first riding lesson when I was eight years old and spent the next ten years as an eventer and dressage rider, riding with some of the best trainers in New England. I’ve ridden a half-dozen Grand Prix trained dressage horses, bragging rights that are not common among adult amateurs. In my teen years I began slowly transitioning to riding western, the discipline I find myself in today. My fondness for English sport has never left me, as evidenced by my current position at the National Sporting Library & Museum, but the comfort of a western saddle and the ability to leave all four feet on the ground has enormous appeal.

This varied background has given me a unique perspective on the two disciplines, and some observations I will now share with you.

Please note, the division of English and western riding is far more complicated than just a difference in saddle, and even within those categories individual disciplines are as varied as can be; reining and barrel racing are as different as dressage and foxhunting.

Western and English styles of riding were both born out of necessity. In Europe, after the invention of the saddle with stirrups, the mounted soldier was a formidable weapon on the field of battle. A method of riding where the rider had complete control of the horse and all his limbs was paramount for successful waging of war. The animal had to be nimble and strong and completely broken of any habits which might interfere with the soldier’s ability to ride and brandish a sword. The saddle had to be secure enough to assist the rider in staying on, but minimalistic enough to allow a great range of movement. The horse and rider had to be able to clear obstacles in the varied European terrain. Athleticism in the moment was more important than endurance; the horse had to be powerful, but only had to last long enough to win or be replaced by reinforcements. Communication between human and equine was constant, allowing for minute adjustments and instant changes in action to respond to attacks.

Painting of a gray horse performing a levade with a rider and two handlers on the ground
(after) James Seymour, (English, 1702-1752), Four-Panel Sporting Screen (detail), c. 1860, hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame , each panel 81 ½ x 27 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

The horse here is depicted schooling the levade, a movement that in battle would have intimidated the enemy and moved the rider up and out of sword’s reach. Today the movement is considered one of the most difficult in dressage and is one of the famed “airs above the ground.”

As war became leisure for the aristocracy, disciplines such as dressage and hunting developed to demonstrate a horse and rider’s abilities to fight successfully in facsimile. The enemy was replaced by a wily fox or a distinguished audience, and the movements once used on the battlefield were fine-tuned for less bloody competition.

Western riding developed similarly out of necessity. In the wild west, vast expanses of land allowed for the cultivation of cattle while necessitating a mode of transportation that was efficient and comfortable. Horses, not requiring roads, paths, or rails, were naturally the mode of choice. Riding for hours and hours tending cattle required a method of riding that was comfortable and long-lasting, but athletic when needed. The trot, a jarring and inefficient gait, was transformed into the jog, a slow but smooth manner of moving for the horse that can be maintained by man and beast for hours. The horse also had to be able to react quickly in case of emergency, hence the development of the American Quarter Horse who can run faster than any other breed but only for short distances. While the cowboy’s attention was on the cattle or scanning the horizon for danger, the horse had to fend for themselves, leading to a style of training in which the horse is more responsible for its own carriage and propulsion. There were no pages, squires, or grooms; a horse left tied had to reliably stay tied, often for hours at a time.

Phoebe Phipps (English/American,? – 1993), The Quail Hunter, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, Gift of Mrs. Mimi Abel Smith, 2012

In this image by Phoebe Phipps, the western discipline is showing its usefulness in modern times. This rider is able to traverse difficult terrain inaccessible by vehicle during the course of the quail hunt. His horse is wearing saddle bags, likely holding supplies. The western saddle is designed to hold a variety of equipment and typically has ties and rings throughout the skirt for attaching such.

The difference is well-illustrated in this clip from the 2015 World Cup “Duel in the Desert,” where a reiner and showjumper swapped horses and disciplines for an exhibition. The western rider steers the horse towards each jump, then effectively gets out of the horse’s way. Without the minute adjustments provided by the English rider, the horse rushes the fences and knocks most of them over. The horse is also on the wrong lead for a few turns, suggesting the rider did not direct him to change and the horse did not manage to change on his own. The English rider maintains strong rein contact while attempting to cut the cow, trying to steer the horse by hand to follow the cow. Unfortunately, the delay between the rider noticing the cow’s movement and directing the horse to follow is too long and the horse misses the cow at every turn; the western rider would have dropped the reins and allowed the horse more freedom to watch and follow the cow on its own, eliminating this reaction time. Both riders are very good; they both stayed on despite being thrown out of their comfort zone, but they ride in ways their horses are not accustomed to, accentuating the differences between them.

I will stop short of suggesting which discipline is superior (although I will assert that the western saddle is far more comfortable, and no one can change my mind on that). Both approaches to horsemanship accomplish what they set out to do through specializations of tack, training, and even breed of horse, developed over the centuries as horseback riding transitioned from necessary task to enjoyable endeavor.

Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature, on view now at the NSLM, features a wide variety of paintings by the artist inspired by his life in the American outback. The horse is still a widely used tool in the region and Smith’s work often features the working western mount. Be sure to visit and learn more about the western discipline in everyday use.


Cynthia Kurtz received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and her B.A. from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is responsible for marketing, social media, and graphic design to support the entire NSLM. When not working, she enjoys trail riding in the woods of Loudoun County.

She can be reached at ckurtz@nationalsporting.org.

Downstairs we have a file cabinet that houses the Library’s vertical files: documents that don’t necessarily belong in an archive collection, yet have significant value and are used as ready reference material to supplement our book and archive collections. Some of the subjects in our vertical files include a variety of horse associations, hunt clubs, and biographies of the artists and writers. Usually the documents in vertical files are a mix of grey literature: brochures, newspaper clippings, maps, catalogs, etc. At the NLSM our vertical files also contain a few research papers and drafts of articles that appear to have been written with the intent of publication, but for whatever reason, never made it to that stage.

Today, I am sharing portions of a draft paper from our Upperville Colt and Horse Show vertical file written sometime after the publication of Nina Carter Tabb’s article which was published in 1937. I have not been able to determine whether this piece appeared in print anywhere, but I thought it was a great summary of the show and includes all sorts of interesting historical tidbits. The author was a judge at the 1905 show, and appears to have judged later shows as well. Enjoy!

When Colonel Richard Hunter Dulany imported his Cleveland Bays from England, ten or fifteen years before the War between the States while the South was in its glory, to interest his neighbors and friends from afar in the breeding of high-class horses, he founded the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. In 1852, the first exhibition was held, as told me by Rozier Dulany, “at a place known as ‘The Vineyard’ in the suburbs of Upperville, which–as near as I can ascertain–is the same location under the giant oaks on the Grafton plantation, where the show has been held continuously ever since, except when discontinued on account of the Civil War.”

Christopher J. FitzGerald, one of the best authorities on the thoroughbred of America and who, for a number of years, had charge of the publicity of the Jockey Club–had never known much of Virginia except from hearsay, but after he had judged at the Upperville Colt Show, was as enthusiastic as the friend who had told him in the Palm Room of the old Boston Club in New Orleans about the great thoroughbred-loving breeders of Loudoun and Fauquier.

“Chris” wrote, “When honored with an invitation to serve as judge at the Upperville Colt Show a few years ago, I got my first glimpse of the country so lavishly praised by my friends. A few hours in company of those responsible for the perpetration of the Show, which had its inception long before the Civil War period, was an inspiring as it was revealing.”

By far the best history of this Show was written by Mayme Ober Peak in the Loudoun-Fauquier Magazine; and so that the interesting facts gathered by her may be saved for all time in book form, I quote from her writings:

On June 11, 1931, crowds again gathered for the annual exhibition of the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, on its grounds a little east of Upperville, much as they did over three-quarters of a century ago. What a contrast is found in this brilliant assemblage, and that first picnic crowd of horse lovers who gathered in the grove on the outskirts of Upperville, Va.

Then the entries comprised less than a dozen heavy drafts, shaggy mares and green hunters; there was no music except from the throats of the birds, and no grandstand seats except Fauquier stones and lap-robes on the ground. But when the lunch baskets were brought from the buggies and buck-boards, and their contents spread under the trees, no more enthusiastic spirit could have been found than among the little group of gentry and farmers, who, all unconsciously, were making turf history. For on that fine day in June, 1852, when was held the first colt show in the country, seed was sown from which grew the great Association of American Horse Shows.

The development of the show is an interesting story. The organizer and moving spirit of the idea was Colonel Richard Hunter Dulany, whose estate ‘Welbourne’ is a few miles from Upperville and who, before his death, was one of the largest landowners in this section of the Blue Ridge.

A gentleman of the old school — a hospitable, generous, public-spirited, he wielded a big influence in the community. His love for horses was a tradition. this love was inherited from his English ancestors, and handed down. The hunters Colonel Dulany bred and rode to hounds were always the envy of the neighboring gentry.

The idea of having an annual colt show and offering prizes for the best purebred colts exhibited was suggested to him by seeing such a show in connection with a county fair in Canada. Calling a meeting of the gentry, he laid the plan before them and it was met with instant and hearty cooperation.

Silver loving cups being decided upon as the most attractive prizes, Colonel Dulany went all the way to New York to purchase a supply. In those days Tiffany’s was almost as famous as it is now, and the Colonel went straight there to do his shopping. As it happened, Mr. Tiffany himself waited on the Virginian. When he found out for what purpose the cups were intended, he was highly interested and excited. in the breast of the Gotham silversmith, it seemed, also beat the heart of a sportsman; “I would consider it a great honor,” he said, “if you would permit me to contribute workmanship on the cups so they would cost you only the weight of the silver. Your plan appeals to me strongly and I would like to aid you in carrying it out.”

[The author continues with several more pages from Mayne Ober Peak’s article, but I will end her article here].

The Upperville Colt Show has undoubtedly played a great part in giving Virginia horses their place in the sun; but as it came in the hot days of June, I had never seen the Colt Show until I was asked to judge hunters there in 1905, and never shall I forget the interesting day. The paragraphs that follow tell of what happened then and also when I was judging later, while the guest of the President of the show, George Slater of Rose Hill.

The Show grounds are attractively laid out parallel to the old pike leading to Middleburg, and in the early days–as all can well remember–the dust from the road used to blow over the grandstand and make all those in attendance unhappy. This, of course, the cement covering has now eliminated. The stand backs on the road and with its enclosure guards one side of the show ring which is railed off from the grounds–which was part of Grafton, formerly “Number Six”–and is shaded by the beautiful oaks, planted a hundred years ago by some tree-loving ancestor. To guard the grounds proper, as the Show increased, horse boxes had been built which give a uniformity to the layout.

The breeding classes come in the morning and are attended by many; but the first great function is the luncheon which, like that of Epsom Downs on Derby Day, everyone brings for himself and his friends. History tells us that since the first Colt Show in ’53 the Dulanys have had their luncheon party come to one particular oak; the Carters just beyond; the Glascocks on farther. Not far away was the “Josh” Fletcher party; the Slaters under the tree beyond; and I am frank to say I never appreciated what find sportsmen and agriculturists lived round till I judged that Show in 1905.

Hot, hot, hot! Yes, piping hot! The ladies in the grandstand fanned themselves and brushed off the dust. There might have been a guard at the ring gate, but how could he stop anyone going into the ring when they were all friends of his and all interested to watch the judging and get a close view of the horses? So, in they crowded. The Dulanys; the great farmers; Colonels and Generals in the War; diplomats from Washington — all filled up the little ring and made it almost impossible to judge the jumping classes, as from the center of the ring you could not see any of the jumps except as the hunter rose in the air, and if you went over to one line of jumps, those on the other side were obscured from you. But it was always been that way. The dear old Colonel was here, there and everywhere, his kindly face shrouded in a grey beard and one arm crippled while leading the Virginia cavalry in Pickett’s Charge, that memorable day at Gettysburg when Lee’s valiant efforts to whip Meade were rendered impossible by Longstreet who, because his plan was not adopted, sulked in this tent.

Miss Ober tells of the beautiful Tiffany silver cups, one of which I had on exhibition at the second Sportsmen’s dinner in New York in 1912, when from all over America, trophies of the Turf and the Chase poured in. The illustration shows the beauty and simplicity of the Colt Show trophies which were so strongly battled for in 1852.

Bell-horses, bel-horses, what time of day? One o’clock, two o’clock, three and away!

The use of bells was first brought about for road warnings of the old convoys and before that by pack horses. In Central America I have heard them as the lead mule guides his pack train down the steep incline of the Andes.

It was a grand sight to see the great four and six horse teams in the ring at the earlier shows. The driver, astride a saddle on the near-wheeler, controlled the team by a jerk line which was attached to the off-side bit of the leader. The team was controlled as perfectly as Howlett controlled a six or four-in-hand, with all the reins in his left hand and his right about the collar of his whip, as he sat on the box of his coach in Paris.

Some of the teams were got up in the most imposing manner, the old-fashioned hames with balls of brass on top, the bell frame over the saddle, the plaited manes and tails with colored ribbands, and on a few the polished brass harness ornaments which were riveted onto the cheek pieces of the bridles and elsewhere…

At that time, 1905, there were few dealers present; now and then one from Philadelphia; but when fox-hunting came in strong–there are ten or twelve packs of hounds within thirty miles of Upperville–the breeding, breaking and selling of hunters has run up to thousands and thousands a year. I shall never forget two most important classes which I judged at one of the later shows. On being asked by George Slater to judge, I wrote down and explained to him the value of an outside course for hunters and jumpers. he accepted the idea and going down a day or two ahead of time, we laid the present course out, which has proved of great value. At that time David Gray, a fine three-quarter bred grey horse was –although twelve or fifteen years old–considered unbeatable. he could seemingly jump all day and never make a mistake. When his class was called, he put up the usual perfect score, but few entries later, came a three-quarter bred chestnut mare Miss Soliloquy bred by Jim Ferguson of Mountsville, which also went perfect, making a sparkling performance.

This chapter of the Upperville Colt and Horse show continues for a total of thirteen pages. There are great details here about the making of mint juleps, the families involved in the show, and descriptions of country life here in Virginia. I have included photos in the vertical file from the Washington Star dated June 5, 1949.

My feet are killing me. I’m tired. I subjected Art Handler Alex to various podcasts and audiobooks. And I’m running out of black leggings to wear. But I love it. Exhibition change-out is my favorite time of year and the past four weeks have been particularly exciting.

Artist Jamie Wyeth generously allowed us to enjoy Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration a little longer, which meant it closed a week before the March 21 closing date for Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art. In the midst of this was the arrival of artwork from the National Museum of Wildlife Art for Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature. Of over 80 works of art.

Monday, March 15

The month-long extravaganza is officially underway. Alex and I began packing the 31 Wyeth paintings (plus one trophy). For those that remember how large Connemara Four is, you can imagine how careful we were. It called for a few extra hands.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Connemara Four (1991), oil on panel, 48 x 96 inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

The deinstallation was bittersweet for a couple reasons. First, this exhibition was a wonderful celebration of the life of our local friend, Mrs. Wyeth. Over the past year, I met many lovely people who either knew her or knew of her. I heard stories of her sense of adventure and her humor, her zeal for life. Listening to these provided such poignant context to the paintings. Second, the exhibition opened pre-COVID, only a few weeks before NSLM closed for four months. I thought back to installation when five of us were crowded in a gallery without worrying about masks or social distancing yet. It is hard to believe it has only been a year, rather it seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the world. But our museum has not only survived, but thrived thanks to our loyal members, visitors, and friends. To the sound of Joe Friday and Dragnet, Alex and I dutifully packed up the exhibition and said goodbye to the Wyeths.

From left to right: Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Sable (1988), oil and gesso on panel, 30 x 40 inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection; She’s Gone to the Barn (2016), acrylic, gesso, and oil on panel, 16 x 11½ inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection; Stealing Hollies from the Irenees (2016), 23 x 29 inches, acrylic, gesso, and oil on panel, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Monday, March 21

Next on our To-Do list was to tackle Steeplechase. We dove in according to the shipping schedule, which meant that as the work from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was going to be the first to be picked up the following Monday, it was first to come off the walls. This was different from Wyeth because this exhibition had 16 private lenders, as well as several public institutions. The transportation logistics can always be hairy as it is multiple schedules we are working around. This appeals to my Virgo nature though – spreadsheets and color coding.

Painting far left: Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880-1953), Welbourne Jack with Jack Skinner up at Glenwood Park, 1937, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, Private Collection; sculpture: Emma MacDermott (Irish, b. 1957), Steeplechase, c. 1986, bronze, 28 x 46 ½ x 10 ½ inches, Private Collection

The individual lenders decide how they want to pack artwork: sometimes paintings arrive in wooden crates, other times in cardboard softpack. There are multiple layers of bubble wrap, plastic, and/or foam core. Everything is saved – how it arrives is how it is returned. Sometimes if a lender is local, they may just transport the painting in the back seat of their car, which is perfectly fine. However, we’ll pack it up safely for its return trip home. We give it the same care as if it were being returned to a place like Yale or VMFA.

Wednesday, March 25

Halfway through the week and halfway through packing, the shipment of Tucker Smith paintings from the NMWA arrived. Our receiving area was soon flooded with crates. I started laughing that hysterical laughter one does when the abstract becomes reality. I knew this was a large exhibition and I knew how many crates would be arriving but seeing it made my eyes bulge.

Also, because of all the packing and shipments, I was still technically two exhibitions behind the rest of the staff. So whilst Claudia, Valerie, and Cynthia Kurtz, our new Marketing Manager (and previous NSLM intern!), were firmly in the world of Tucker Smith, I was still knee-deep in Wyeth and Steeplechase. When Cynthia referred to The Refuge, the massive 45 ¼ x 129 ½ painting by Smith that had just arrived, I was racking my brain for a painting of the same name in one of the previous exhibitions.

We never open art upon arrival. It needs to acclimate. This was fine since we still had to finish with Steeplechase. Thank goodness for comfy sneakers. By the end of the week, Alex and I finished not only the packing of the exhibition, but an entire season of the Criminal Broads podcast.

Empty Steeplechase walls

Monday, March 29

And so the start of return shipments and local deliveries. We tend to use a few different companies because of where they can make deliveries. The interesting part of shipping logistics is to ensure that there is not a double booking for the trucks, but we can only plan so much because, just like the cable company, they provide a window of time rather than a specific one.

Always keeping myself on my toes, we had several pickups that morning, as well as a local delivery. Everyone was on the earlier side of the window which normally is perfect, but because of scheduling for the local transport, I had to pull Claudia away from her mountain of work to handle the pickup. Thankfully, it all went off without a hitch.

And now I could finally devote my attention to Tucker Smith and his beautiful oeuvre. I have never been to the West. I am the stereotypical East Coaster – there’s the west coast, the east coast, and everything else in the middle. A terrible attitude and it (rightfully) rankles my Minnesota friends and family. This exhibition, though, has me wanting to visit Wyoming right now. Alex spent nine years in his previous life as a cowboy near where Smith painted many of the works we were unpacking.

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), The Season, 2005, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, Collection of Beverly and Roe Hatlen

In between Poirot’s Finest Cases on audiobook, I enjoyed listening to Alex’s stories of being out west. In Rabbit Brush, Lupine, and Sage which features an entire foreground of sagebrush, he told me of the beautiful scent released as he rode through it. He confirmed that the expansive blue sky that goes on forever in the aptly titled Big Sky is just as wonderous as Smith depicts it. As Alex looked at The Branding, I learned more about castration than I needed to know. I also learned how to not frighten moose and that “butte” is pronounced “beau-t.”

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), The Branding, 1988, oil on canvas, Collection of Curtice and Bob McCloy

The exhibition was not even officially open yet and something I had already noticed was how evocative the paintings are. People see them and immediately launch into their own stories about muleys, rams, and bears. Claudia told us about a childhood family trip out west. A board member who happened to be at the museum told us of the moose he saw on his visits to Yellowstone. These paintings with their rich colors and unique perspectives bring those memories alive for the viewer in a way I have not experienced at the NSLM before.

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), Big Sky, 1990, 12 x 14 inches, oil on canvas, Collection of Curice and Bob McCloy

An unofficial element of the NSLM mission is the conservation and preservation of our natural landscapes and this exhibition really underlines that. It shows the importance of preserved spaces for both the land and the animals. Many of the human figures Smith includes in his landscapes show us how small we truly are, but also how big our responsibility is to be capable stewards of such magnificent places.

Friday, April 9

Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature is officially open! Be sure to see this stunning retrospective before it closes on August 22. Reserve your tickets online.


Having not ventured to the West beyond a handful of trips to Arizona, it made me want to rent an RV and soak up the landscape. Consider this my two weeks notice, boss. I’m off to ride into that big Wyoming sky.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Please meet, Saint

I own an exceptionally patient horse. I bought him as a 6-year-old with a mere 60 days of saddle training and had him teaching toddlers to ride by the following weekend. He is unflappable, smart, and willing to try new things.

So when I saw a used harness for sale locally, I did what any reasonable equestrian would do, and decided to learn to drive with my horse who also didn’t know how to drive. I am normally an advocate of at least one party knowing what they are doing—green riders and green horses do not go well together—but this is the horse that enjoys joining us at the bonfire while the rest of the herd runs away from the flames. I was sure he’d be fine.

The first step was putting the harness on, which entailed me learning what the parts were and Saint learning to accept leather straps in various places on his body. I expected him to react to the breeching, straps that wrap below the rump and function as brakes, and the crupper, which goes below the tail to keep the surcingle from sliding too far forward, but my steady steed hardly flinched.

At this stage in training, the breeching is strapped on tightly, so the horse becomes accustomed to the pressure and doesn’t panic. Eventually, it’ll hang more loosely, and the horse will be taught to stand against the pressure as the cart slows to a stop behind him. I also let other straps hang loosely from the harness to allow Saint to become accustomed to things swinging around and dragging behind him. The traces, not being attached to a cart, are tied up into the surcingle and then hang loosely at his sides so he feels them but cannot step on them.

This was the point at which I stepped behind him and taught him to “ground-drive,” essentially the same as driving but with me walking behind him instead of riding in a cart. For obvious reasons, this is the safest way to introduce the concept of driving. I attached the lines to a halter so I could steer him without worrying about him struggling against a bit while he figured it out. Using a driving whip I encouraged him to move forward, and within one session he had walk, trot, and halt down pat with me controlling him from behind. I even took him for a walk around the property to show off!

After a few months, in which time Saint mastered commands such as “gee” to turn right and “haw” to turn left as well as cues from my whip to move sideways or backwards, it was time to introduce the bridle with blinders. The blinders serve to focus the horse’s attention forward, especially preventing them from panicking at the sight of a carriage following them. Saint is a very attentive horse and hasn’t taken to the blinders particularly well. He prefers an “open” bridle, which is a driving bridle without blinders, but they are harder to find because most horses are not as relaxed as Saint is without them. It was at this point that he got used to steering with the bit instead of the halter, and we got to start going on adventures down the road.

Finally, he was ready to start pulling some weight! One of the benefits of living in Maine in the winter is we get to take our horses sledding. While at first Saint was rather displeased about the thing following him, within an hour or so we were driving around with me on the sled.

At long last, it was time to introduce the last piece of the harness: the overcheck rein. Formerly known as the “bearing” rein, many readers will be familiar with it from Black Beauty. It prevents the horse from putting his head down below the shafts of the cart, which would be very dangerous. Many horses don’t need it, and it is not used to hold the horse’s head artificially high as it was in Victorian England. Saint, however, is a fan of stopping to smell the roses, so he absolutely needs to wear the overcheck to keep us both safe. This was the first point in his training where he actively resented something I presented him with. As a western riding horse, he is not accustomed to having a lot of contact with the bit, so the pressure of the overcheck is foreign to him. At the time of writing, it has only been a week since the overcheck was introduced, so I am sure with more time and patience he will come around. 

We still have a long way to go before he is ready to pull a cart. We’ll keep pulling tires and sleds around the arena for a while, and then start getting him used to shafts, and finally a vehicle following him without being attached. Once he has passed all these tests with flying colors, he’ll be ready to drive around the countryside!

A few weeks ago, I got an intriguing email from William Harris, a co-conspirator in the “rewilding” of American portrait painter Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand (American, 1878-1941):

I hope this finds you doing well. I thought immediately of you when I came across this slender volume from the 1890s, “Out of Town Aquarelles,” watercolor plates by Ellen G. Emmett. Each one depicts an outdoor or athletic activity including a woman riding side saddle as well as a fox hunt. I didn’t know if you were familiar with it. Alexis had not seen it. Though I know the exhibit is over it is still fun since Rand was all of 20 when doing these. Attached are some pictures.

Very Best,
Bill Harris

The “Alexis” to which Bill referred in his email is Alexis Boylan, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Connecticut, with a joint appointment in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and Associate Director of Humanities Institute. She led the writer of the email, William Ashley Harris, seven other scholars, and myself on an almost 4-year journey beginning with a writers’ retreat at UConn in 2016 (read more: Ellen Emmet Rand Slept Here). The resulting research led us all to contribute essays to the book, Ellen Emmet Rand: Gender, Art, and Business, published by Bloomsbury Academic in November 2020 and edited by Alexis. Her introduction to the book is titled, “The Rewilding of Ellen Emmet Rand.” “Rewilding” refers to returning an animal to its natural ecosystem, and the project solidified Rand’s rightful (and natural) place within art historical discourse.

Researching this project also led me to develop and curate the exhibition, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand, at the National Sporting Library & Museum, which we closed last April. Bill’s email gave me a welcome excuse to venture back into Rand’s contributions. Although the NSLM exhibition focused on her later work in the 1920s and 1930s, she was gifted at a young age.

In the book, Dear Females, by Rand’s granddaughter and namesake Ellen E. Rand, she drew on correspondences and archives to paint a picture of her grandmother as a young woman and consummate professional committed to financially supporting her family as a successful portrait painter from her earliest days.

Rand first studied at the Art Students League in 1889. Among her instructors was the portrait painter William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916), and in the summer of 1891, she was among the first students to attend his Summer School of Art at Shinnecock on Long Island (read more: Shinnecock Summer School of Art: The Art Village). Harry Whitney McVickar (American, 1860-1905), an artist, illustrator for the Frederick A. Stokes Company, and a prominent member of the New York City social scene saw Rand’s entry in an end-of-season art exhibition. At the time, McVickar was also the first Art Director for the fledgling periodical, Vogue, and he hired Rand to illustrate the second cover of the now renowned fashion magazine which was targeted toward society and written to appeal to a male demographic (read more: 1892 vs. 2017: What’s Changed, and What Hasn’t, Since the First Issue of Vogue Was Published). Rand was just 16 years old! Additionally, she was hired as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly and comfortably supported her family with her income in the following years. She was frustrated, however, by not having more time to paint (Rand 20).

Vogue. vol. 1, no. 2. 24 December 1892, Front cover illustrated by E.G. Emmet [source: https://www.vogue.com/article/vogue-125-1892-2017-compare-and-contrast-now-and-then%5D

It is at this point that we return to Bill Harris’s rare book find. Printed two years after Rand was first hired by Vogue, Out-of-Town Aquarelles was released during the Christmas season. The cover with its fine red and green paper, inset chromolithograph of a watercolor, and an ornate embossing, speaks to the quality of the publication. The title page notes that the illustrated aquarelles (French for “watercolor”) within are “Facsimiles of Paintings in Water Color” and includes the titles of six image plates that follow. The publisher is listed as Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, the firm that had also employed McVickar.

Cover: Out-of-Town Aquarelles: Facsimiles of Paintings in Water Color by Ellen G. Emmet, 1894
Title page lists the Frederick A. Stokes Company as the publisher.

The publisher was known for its art books and the quality of its chromolithographic reproductions. “The Critic’s Review” in the 16 December 1889 Pittsburgh Dispatch noted about an earlier book printed by Stokes: “‘chromo’ is, however, an important work of art, for it means the accurate reproduction of color; it means a painting can be practically duplicated and multiplied to give inspiration and pleasure to thousands…, The Fac-similes of Aquarelles which are presented in this book belong to the same high class.”

“After a Day’s Skating.”

The first plate in Rand’s book shows a dashing young couple after ice skating. The female figure is dressed in a beautifully tailored winter outfit complete with a fur and muff. The male figure is stylishly dressed in men’s outerwear. It is a variation on the theme of Rand’s Vogue cover. Both were painted in watercolor; however, the book plate in color is much more lively than the black and white reproduction on the magazine cover.

“A Fair Horse-woman.”

The second plate shows an elegantly turned-out sidesaddle rider ready for a foxhunt. It speaks to Rand’s knowledge as an equestrian, as she herself rode aside.

“Yachting”

The third plate illustrates a fashionably-dressed young couple yachting, and the fourth a dapper polo player. The latter sport had taken hold in the United States after the founding of the Newport Polo Grounds in Connecticut in 1876.

“A Polo Player.”
“A Fox Hunter.”

The above plates of the romanticized gentleman polo player and the well-healed foxhunter are a foreshadowing of the man Rand would marry in 1911. William Blanchard Rand was 9 years Ellen’s junior, a polo player, and a horseman. Together they built the town and country life in Salisbury, Connecticut of which she had dreamed in her early years and for which she worked to support her entire career. She was a lifelong equestrian, but it was not until 1929 when she was in her fifties that she finally experienced the exhilarating sport of foxhunting following Blanchard when he became Master of Old Lebanon Hunt.

“Ready for the Toboggan.”

In 1896, just two years after Out-of-Town Aquarelles was published, the young Rand earned enough income to travel to Paris where she became the first female student of Frederic William MacMonnies (American, 1863-1947) and upon returning, embarked on a four-decade career as a pioneering and financially successful female portrait painter. The folders of early original drawings Rand had sold, which her granddaughter inherited, contained notes “that the work is never to be shown to any art dealer or critic.” (Rand, 20) Although Rand left the illustration world behind, her early works speak to her talent, dreams, and aspirations.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing this gem. It is another eye-opening layer of the rewilding of Ellen Emmet Rand.


Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

Born in 1926 at the United States Army Remount Depot in Front Royal, Virginia (less than an hour from the National Sporting Library & Museum), Jenny Camp was named after the cavalry’s horse shows open to enlisted soldiers, women, and children, known as “Jenny Camp” shows. Despite being the daughter of one of the Army’s finest remount stallions, Gordon Russell, Jenny Camp did not come equipped with wonderful confirmation, but she did come with a scrappy hardiness that would take her far.

Jenny Camp. “Olympic Horseflesh” by John T. Cole, Cavalry Journal May-June 1937, p. 202.

At the Cavalry School in Fort Riley, Kansas, Jenny Camp was selected as a potential Olympic team mount and began training for the three-part Olympic event called Eventing. This event developed out of military horsemanship and requires the competitors to excel in dressage, cross country riding, and show jumping – all skills needed in a good cavalry mount. Not just a test of the horse’s abilities, it is also a showcase for the skills of the rider, and close teamwork between the mount and rider is critical for success. Jenny Camp was paired with Lieutenant Earl F. “Tommy” Thompson (1900–1971).

Earl F. “Tommy” Thompson. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012) p.82. The gift of William Steinkraus.

Thompson was a graduate of West Point and a polo player. He would go on to become one of the most successful of the United States military’s Olympians. His partnership with Jenny Camp yielded three medals in two consecutive Olympic Games. The pair won the individual silver medal and the team gold medal in eventing at the 1932 Olympics, and the individual silver medal in eventing at the 1936 Olympics. In 1948 he won two more medals on other mounts, bringing his total to five. In 1952 Olympics he participated as an official for the equestrian events.

Thompson and Jenny Camp. Equestrian Excellence by Barbara Wallace Shambach (1996), p. 28.

The eventing competition in the 1936 Olympics would come with controversy. The cross country segment included a jump into water that would prove difficult and even deadly. Riders were required to negotiate a three foot post-and-rail fence into a pond approximately two feet deep, and clear a jump out on the far side. The water was deeper than it appeared and the footing on the bottom of the pond was soft and muddy, resulting in numerous falls. Only fifteen of forty-eight horses successfully handled the obstacle and three were required to be euthanized due to injury, including one of the American team’s mounts.

Footage of the dangerous water obstacle at the 1936 Olympics. Thompson and Jenny Camp can been seen at 3:01.

The controversy came when the Germans all handled the jump by taking a longer, less direct route which appeared to have good, even footing. There was speculation that they knew the condition of the footing under the water ahead of time and were able to avoid trouble. In the end nothing could be proven. In order to be eligible for a team medal, all members of a team must complete each element of the eventing trial. By the end of the cross country portion of the event, there remained only three intact teams. Despite being out of the team competition, Thompson and Jenny Camp took on the show jumping course the following day and earned their second individual silver medal.

Thompson and Jenny Camp at the 1936 Olympics. They would win the individual silver medal for eventing. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012), p. 95. The gift of William Steinkraus.

Commentary on Jenny Camp from the time can be found in two articles for the The Cavalry Journal May/June 1937 issue. In the first, “Olympic Horseflesh,” Major John T. Cole said, “Although she is a frail little thing, she showed wonderful stamina and courage… She is now at the Remount Depot at Fort Robinson, being bred in hopes that she may transmit her fine courage and stamina to a better shaped and nicer moving colt” (p. 201).

Thompson and Jenny Camp at the 1932 Olympics. They would win the individual silver medal and the team gold medal for eventing. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012), p. 82. The gift of William Steinkraus

In his article “The Conformation of Three-Day Horses” Lieutenant Colonel Harry D. Chamberlin said, “Jenny Camp, however, has proved herself the miracle horse, in that, as stated by Major Cole, she is on the small side, short-gaited, far from prepossessing from the knee down (particularly in her front pasterns which are quite upright), and undoubtedly the poorest of the three horses in general conformation. Yet she did the best work then and lived to repeat in 1936. Captain Earl F. Thompson must share generously in her glory, for such things do not happen to any horse unless superbly and intelligently ridden… In addition she possessed that greatest of all virtues, true quality. This word is frequently misused and misunderstood. When used generally about a horse, as “that horse has quality,” it means something that can be determined only by test. It is a matter of the circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and digestive system, substance of the tendons, muscles, bones, etc., and their proper functioning under tremendous strain, requiring particularly endurance and maximum effort. In quality, the gallant little mare proved a marvel, having that final and all-important virtue embraced in the term “quality”; i.e., great courage. She also has the innate and impossible-to-develop attributes of agility and quickness” (203-4).

Thompson and Jenny Camp. Olympic Equestrian by Jennifer O. Bryant (2008), p. 98. The gift of The Blood-Horse.

During World War II Earl F. Thompson served as chief of staff for the 10th Mountain Division. He earned the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He retired from the Army in 1954 as a full Colonel. Jenny Camp retired from Olympic competition after the 1936 games and went to Fort Robinson to serve as a broodmare. One of the members of the 1932 Olympic equestrian team eventually bought her and moved her to his farm in California where she lived to the the age of thirty-two. Today her memory is preserved in the Jenny Camp Horse Trials held by the Maryland Combined Training Association every September.


Works Cited

Ammann, Max E. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games 1912-2008. Lusanne, Federation Equestre Internationale, 2012.

Bryant, Jennifer. Olympic Equestrian. Lexington, Kentucky, Eclipse Press, 2008.

Chamberlin, Harry D. “The Conformation of Three-Day Horses.” The Cavalry Journal, May-June 1937, pp. 203-205.

Cole, John T. “Olympic Horseflesh.” The Cavalry Journal, May-June 1937, pp.197-230.

Shambach, Barbara Wallace. Equestrian Excellence. Boonsboro, Maryland, Half Halt Press, 1996.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

Or, the full title, “Black Beauty: His grooms and companions. The autobiography of a horse. Translated from the original equine by Anna Sewell

Just in time for Sewell’s birthday on March 30! As mentioned in prior blog posts, I am not an equestrienne in any sense of the word. My acquaintance with horses was exactly one Girl Scout excursion circa 1995 and reading about Felicity’s love for her horse, Penny, in the American Girl series. American Girl was also the root of my love for history and set me on my path to majoring in it (History, not American Girls – if only) in undergrad – books for the win!

Felicity and her brother watching Penny with her terrible owner in Meet Felicity. Image courtesy of American Girl Wiki

And now for a Classic. I have always known of Black Beauty, the way one hears about Treasure Island or Gulliver’s Travels. It’s just one of those ubiquitous books. Due to its relatively short length and its narration by the titular character, it is often considered a children’s book. But it really isn’t, per the intentions of the author. It just worked out that way as its publication coincided with legislation that began requiring children to attend school, so it literally had a whole new audience.

First, a little about the author.

Anna Sewell
Image courtesy of Literary Ladies Guides

Sewell was born in 1820 in Great Yarmouth in England to Isaac and Mary, who instilled in their two children (brother Philip came along in 1822) a sense of moral responsibility influenced by their Quaker faith. Isaac wasn’t initially the most successful of breadwinners, and the family frequently moved. As a toddler, Sewell often wanted to feed the horses. At her uncle’s farm, she learned to ride (sidesaddle, as was the custom) and carriage drive. She and Philip would spend the days riding and exploring. She was described by her mother as having a “great deal of courage and independence of character, never burdened with any kind of fear.”

As young children Anne and Philip were tutored by their mother. Perhaps the most important lesson taught was “that everything living was part of God’s family and ‘that all cruelty or injury inflicted is displeasing to Him who made His creatures to be happy.’” As they got older, the now teenage Anna and Philip attended the local schools. One day running home during a rainstorm, she fell and injured her ankles. Though the family thought it would heal in its own time, it dramatically affected her life as she thereafter had difficulty walking.

Sewell, aged 10

Sewell was encouraged to maintain riding horses as a way to treat her injuries that were a constant source of pain and frustration. It must have also provided a freedom she felt she had lost. She seemed to have a particular connection to horses, perhaps also at the mercy of others, felt a kinship. A family friend noted that when driving, “[Anna] seemed simply to hold the reins in her hand, trusting to her voice to give all needed directions to her horse. She evidently believed in a horse having a moral nature, if we may judge by her mode of remonstrance. ‘Now thee shouldn’t walk up this hill – don’t thee see how it rains?’ ‘Now thee must go a little faster – thee would be sorry for us to be late at the station.’”

Throughout her life, Sewell, along with her mother, continued their good works. Around the age of 50, Sewell became primarily bedridden due to, what her death certificate lists, as “Chronic Hepatitis” and “Phthisis Pulmonalis,” also known as tuberculosis.

Black Beauty was written, off and on, beginning in 1871, which was (perhaps not coincidentally) when she was no longer able to ride or drive, as noted by her biographer Adrienne E. Gavin. Sewell occasionally dictated to Mary, other times, Sewell wrote herself. It was a family affair with her brother and father also serving as editors and readers.

Now, to me.

I read the annotated version by Ellen B. Wells and Anne Grimshaw, which was great for a 21st-century non-rider. It provided definitions and descriptions along the way. After I finished, I just sat there absorbing it all. There is a lot to unpack.

My first thought was that I do not know why anyone thinks this is a children’s book. It certainly has its pleasant, idyllic moments, but it has even darker moments that would have, frankly, given me nightmares as a kid. Honestly, as an adult too, I have a vivid imagination, and I am the type of reader who will continue to think about a book for days after.

Its simple message of kindness to horses was perfect. Throughout are passages that describe the proper treatment and how respect and gentleness serve horse and rider better than a rough hand, “Oh! If people knew what a comfort to horses a light is, and how it keeps a good mouth and a good temper, they surely would not chuck, and drag, and pull at the rein as they often do.”

What I found so remarkable were the descriptions. They are so detailed that I could see everything clearly from the opening line, “The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end.” The description of the bearing-rein from Black Beauty’s perspective made made me cringe, “Of course I wanted to pull my head forward and take the carriage up with a will, as we had been used to do; but no, I had to pull with my head up now, and that took all the spirit out of me, and the strain came on my back and legs.”

I was frequently wondering when the other shoe would drop. I sensed the idyllic lifestyle of Black Beauty’s first home wasn’t going to last; I just knew something was going to happen. The whole book is about the treatment of horses, and the Victorian era wasn’t known for its kindness to animals. It wasn’t the Royal Society for Continuing to be Nice to Animals that was established in 1824. Black Beauty’s decline in living and working conditions was heartbreaking. I knew each move was going to get progressively worse, but hoped there was a kind soul. When I thought it could not get any worse, Ginger happens. The mare who can barely catch a break, who gets only snippets of contentment.

I sat on my little couch with the book in my lap, wanting to run out and snuggle all the horses I saw. Of course, that would entail driving to Middleburg and then not scaring the horses, who, as we learned, can sense when someone has no idea what she or he is doing. Admittedly, I’d do more damage than good. Instead, I attempted to unsuccessfully cuddle with my cats.

Black Beauty has never been out of print, and myriad editions exist. The Library here has multiple copies, which was a little overwhelming when Mars Technical Librarian Erica Libhart laid them out in front of me.

Some of the editions in the NSLM Library

The book was first illustrated in 1894 by sporting artist John Beer. Considered the best of the illustrations are by Lucy Kemp-Dent in 1915.

Various artist friends of ours have tackled the subject, like Cecil Aldin, Lionel Edwards, and Paul Brown.

Black Beauty spawned various sequels and movies, the most recent was last year on Disney+. But its most important roles to influence and educate has continued. As Gavin noted, in 1924, one man’s animal cruelty sentence involved not only involved a year in jail, but he had to read Black Beauty three times.

Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 in November, the anniversary of its first publication, when I’ll be diving into the social issues presented within the book. If you have not read it, or it has been a while, this gives you time! Can there be spoilers after 144 years?

Sources: Gavin, Adrienne, Dark Horse: A Life of Anne Sewell. J.H. Haynes, 2004.

Sewell, Anne, et. al. The Annotated Black Beauty. J.A. Allen, 1989.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Does the woodblock print below look familiar? If not, sit back to learn more! Not only is a it a striking image of a horse, there is a pretty interesting backstory about the artist as well.

The woodblock print can be found in the National Sporting Library & Museum’s copy of Hippiatria sive Marescalia by Lorenzo Rusio. Rusio, who published under a Latinized version of his name, “Laurentius Rusius,” gained his expertise as a stable master to a Roman cardinal in the 14th century, according to a bibliography by Richard Baron von Hunersdorff:

Originally written in the 13th century, [Hippiatria] it was based on sources compiled at the court of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, himself a passionate horseman. Described are methods of controlling the horse by means of physical force exercised by way of severe horse-bits. It was an attempt to solve the problem of quickly stopping and turning the heavy and coarse horses used in combat and jousting (176, von Hunersdorff).

In Hippiatria, the three large woodcuts were created by H.S. Beham (Hans Sebald Beham). Born in 1550, Beham was a noted German printmaker, and is known as the most prominent of the “Little Masters,” a group of German printmakers who produced a prodigious number of highly detailed prints during the first half of the 16th century. The artists were active a generation after the great artist, Albrecht Durer. Like Durer, Beham was also based in Nuremberg.

Beham was a young man when the Reformation broke out in 1517, when Martin Luther attempted to reform the Christian Church. Passionate about Luther’s ideas, Beham found himself caught in the cross-current of the new religious ideas, and had to flee from his home-base in Nuremberg several times to avoid arrest. For his part, Beham contributed to the “Wild Reformation” through woodcuts, the most popular and accessible form of publicity and to some extent, the acquisition of knowledge, in those days of limited literacy. In some ways, woodcuts prints were the TikTok videos of the 1500s. The year of the Peasants War, 1525, Sebald, and his younger brother Barthel, were banished from Nuremberg for religious and political disobedience. In 1528, after publishing a book on the proportions of the horse, Dises Büchlein zeyget an und lernet ein Mass oder Proportion der Ross, Beham was accused of plagiarizing unpublished work by Dürer and again fled from Nuremberg.

There are not enough records to determine whether or not Beham was indeed guilty of plagiarism. In any case, the nickname, “The Godless Painter” was given to Beham during his trial with the Nuremberg city council. According to scholar Alison G. Stewart:

In the following years, Beham once again ran into trouble in Nuremberg. On July 22, 1528, the town council prohibited Beham and his colleague “Iheronimus formschneidern,” probably the printer-woodcutter Hieronymus Andreae, from publishing Beham’s book on the proportions of horses … until Dürer’s book on human proportions was published posthumously by his widow, who was the manager of Dürer’s workshop. The fact that Beham fled town quickly when summoned by the authorities (which resulted in his wife having to send his coat to him) might suggest that he was indeed guilty of plagiarism, as charged, although his guilt has been neither proved nor disproved. But it is also possible that Beham left posthaste because he feared he would be imprisoned or expelled, having previously experienced the power of the Nuremberg authorities to do just that. 

Two woodcuts by H.S. Beham, each signed with his monogram beneath the horse
Close up of marking for the library of the Marquis de Guineye

This copy, a second edition published in Paris, contains the markings indicating that the book was once owned by the Marquis de Guineye. Later, the book was owned by the German researcher and academic, and book collector, J.H. Anderhub, whose bookplate dates ownership at 1937. According the the von Hunersdorff bibliography, the copy at the University of Cambridge is “imperfect, lacking the two leaves with the Beham woodcuts.” We are indeed lucky at the NLSM to have such a well-kept copy!

I recommend reading the fascinating article by Alison G. Stewart on Sebald Beham. She provides in-depth research on the art of Behald, his training and possible link to Dürer, plus great detail on the numerous(!) run-ins that Beham had with the law. You can read her article, Sebald Beham: Entrepreneur, Printmaker, Painter here: https://jhna.org/articles/sebald-beham-entrepreneur-printmaker-painter/.