You may have noticed seven new large sculptures by Walter T. Matia (American, born 1953) installed along the pathway and in front of the Museum building last month. The striking animal bronzes are the outdoor portion of the exhibition, Field Notes | Walter Matia, and will be on view through January 9, 2022.

We speculate they may have been responsible for a vehicular hit and run which took out about 6 feet of our stone wall on The Plains Road. You read that right. Someone missed completing the turn from W. Federal Street. I’ve never understood people who are able to flee from something like that without taking responsibility, but that’s a conversation for another blog.

Where was I? I’m not going to lie. Installation was an absolute spectacle for me. It was, however, another day at the office for Walter and his right-hand Leeann Krautwurst, albeit a stressful and long one for them. I got a call from Leeann in the morning on June 1st that they would be 45 minutes late. They had everything planned to a tee, but the load turned out to be too heavy: a second truck needed to be arranged that morning. I was thankful because our tractor/forklift order had fallen through, and Facilities and Grounds Manager Nick Greenwell was able to procure a local one. (Apologies to all who got stuck behind us as we crawled along Zulla Road.)

The two trucks arrived at 10:45 am on the dot with Tennessee stone bases, pavers, and bronzes. A lot of heavy lifting and a bit of digging ensued to create level bases. We started with the sculptures that did not require a forklift. International Harvester, the English pointer in a corn field, was the first to be mounted.

International Harvester, 2016, bronze, 38 x 47 x 14 inches, Collection of the artist; left to right: Leeann Krautwurst, Walter Matia, Nick Greenwell and Facilities Assistants Alex Orfila, Jacob Lewis, and Gary Stout

Cry Havoc, the swooping Peregrine Falcon, was not made as a mate to Crossing to Safety, the Greenwing Teals, but Walter had the vision to install them together as a pair. It makes for a dramatic introduction from the rear parking lot.

Crossing to Safety, 2017, bronze, 68 x 18 x 12 inches, Collection of the artist; Cry Havoc, 2019, bronze, 88 x 30 x 18 inches, Collection of the artist

We had selected and marked the installation locations in April. You may have spotted the spray-painted numbers on the ground and wondered what they were for.

Then the nail biting started for me, but we were in good hands. For each of the next sculptures, Nick carefully approached the palettes with precision…

The Finalist, 2020, bronze, 42 x 26 x 29 inches, Collection of Mr. Paul Tudor Jones

…lifted them out of the truck…

Rewards of First Light, 2012, bronze, 46 x 56 x 17 inches, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Mullin

…lowered them, and drove them to their places.

Whooping Crane, 1992, bronze, 59 x 48 x 27 inches, Collection of the American Bird Conservancy

Mounting the sculptures to the stone bases required more elbow grease and heavy lifting. Astoundingly, within four hours all the bronzes were safely and securely in place, thanks to everyone’s cooperation and a lot of hard work. Afterwards we added labels and a QR code that points to an online description of the pieces and a campus map to orient visitors.

Custom google map of Field Notes | Walter Matia outdoor installation

The night before the opening celebrations, I called Walter with some bad news. The elderberries had ripened, and a mockingbird was desecrating the sculptures and bases with deep purple scat. He burst out laughing and said, “Well, there’s the sh*t you can control and the sh*t you can’t.” Nature will have its way. We discussed again the pros and cons of outdoor installations.

The artist’s vision for these animal sculptures is to experience them outdoors, much in the same way he interacts with the living creatures that inspire him. You see, this is why we can have and enjoy nice things. We just need to clean them regularly.


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

Written by John H. Daniels Fellow Adélaïde de Savray

When I first started working on the history of women’s equitation, I hadn’t realized to what little extent it had been researched, and how much it was marred by myths and misconceptions. Women have almost completely been left out of horsemanship history, mostly seen by modern scholars as passive riders lagging behind accomplished horsemen, forced to sit on special sidesaddles supposedly made to protect their virginity and keep them estranged from power. The earliest pages printed addressing women’s equitation in horsemanship literature, published in Germany in 1678 and 1729, show otherwise. Women rode both aside and astride and had access to quality training by the same riding-masters who taught men, in the Manège – the riding ring, a place arguably as useful to power at the time as could have been a great hall. Women’s equestrian portraits mirror riding practices:  they prove women were not left out of the brilliant horse culture of the time but suffer from the same lack of research.

Equestrian portraits could be traced back to the art of aristocratic seals in the Middle Ages, upon which men were sometimes depicted on horseback as a sign of military power. Women had no need for this martial representation but expressed their own power on equestrian seals by showing themselves in the noble pastime of falconry—a theme that would survive in painted portraits. Even if they usually rode astride, the sidesaddle position guaranteed that anyone, upon seeing the seal, would immediately identify a woman. This artistic convention might have led to representing women mostly sideways in later painted portraits, even if they rode like men in everyday life. 

Seal of Elizabeth de Sevorc, 13th century, British Museum

In the 16th and 17th centuries, especially, horses were instruments of royal magnificence and glory. Dressage and hunting had become courtly arts.  A well-bred, well-schooled horse was expensive to buy, train, and maintain. Capturing this in a painting was a luxury available only to the highest aristocracy, as equestrian portraits conveyed a complex message of power from which women of royal and princely households could not be left out. Official commissioned portraits of royal couples made as pairs served political and court rhetoric as much as individual ones did. Instances, especially with the horse in a pesade, quickly spread in European courts through painted portraits given as gifts, richly illustrated books on horsemanship, and popular engravings.

Portrait of a princess from the House of Savoy, maybe Margaret Yolande, c.1660, Castello Racconigi.

Most women’s equestrian portraits from these centuries, even if they survived independently, were painted as a mate to a man’s portrait. Very few portraits were made as individual ones for women in the 17th century. Those which were all strictly copied the same codified devices depicting men, legitimizing these women in their position of authority, sometimes showing them as accomplished horsewomen, like Madame de Saint-Baslemont by Déruet and Christina of Sweden by Bourdon.

No one seems to have objected much to these portraits at the time, implying that the appropriation of male codes for the representation of exceptionally courageous or powerful women was not seen as inappropriate. It had no reason to be. Women often found themselves carrying the crown, in their own name or through a regency, and they hunted alongside men, even though it was considered training for the harshness of war. In 1761, at the death of her husband, Madame de Brionne even served as Grand Écuyer de France—equivalent to the Master of the Horse in England—one of the highest and most prestigious positions in the King’s Household. She held the reins of the royal stables for ten years until her son was old enough to be sworn in.

Wilhelmina of Prussia, Tethart Philipp Christian Haag, 1789, Rijksmuseum

By the middle of the 18th century, the genre of equestrian portraiture had seeped into the lower ranks of aristocracy, but on the Continent, it mostly stayed an instrument of court culture. In England, where horse riding truly became a sport, it took a different turn and became a staple of the landed gentry’s image. Painted in front of the gently rolling hills of their country estates, out hunting, or for a walk, these equestrian portraits were made to express social status and family values more than authority. Portraits were not designed in pairs anymore, but oftentimes individually or in a group—usually with a groom—and family portraits, showing women as active members of upper-class country life and accomplished hunters. 

English school, second half of the 18th century, DE BAECQUE & Associés
The Countess of Coningsby in the Costume of the Charlton Hunt, George Stubbs, c.1760, Yale Center for British Arts

Equestrian portraits of the 17th and 18th centuries reveal women as powerful aristocrats and excellent horsewomen, but they also prove that riding aside was not yet a widespread practice in Europe. Still, astride riding fell out of grace soon after, and the picturesque elegance of a woman sitting sidesaddle would truly shine in 19th-century portraits. 


Adélaïde de Savray graduated from Sorbonne-Nouvelle University and the Institut d’Études Supérieures des Arts in Paris. She focuses her research on the history of female equitation from the Middle-Ages to the 18th century, with a strong interest in sidesaddle and women’s equestrian portraits.

www.savray.comadesavray@gmail.com

A friend of mine is coming to Northern Virginia for a few weeks, so I’ve been helping her look for a horse to ride while she’s here. Our conversations can be summarized as follows:

“What about this one? It’s a bay Thoroughbred gelding.”

“Oh wait! I found another one, it’s a bay Thoroughbred gelding.”

“How about a bay Thoroughbred mare? Oh wait, sorry, brown Thoroughbred…”

Indeed, driving down Rt. 50 through Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, you will see a plethora of shades of bay and brown, with the occasional chestnut thrown in for good measure. Every once in a while, a big gray sporthorse will dot the field, strikingly contrasted against his herdmates. This occurrence is not isolated to Virginia hunt country either: out of 147 Kentucky Derby winners in the history of the race, 87 have been bay or brown and 48 have been chestnut, leaving just 12 winners of different colors (eight were gray/roan, four were black). A gray or black horse has never won the Triple Crown.

It might surprise readers, then, that the Jockey Club recognizes several more colors and coat patterns than are commonly reflected in American horse racing. Thoroughbreds may be white or palomino, and can display tobiano, overo, or sabino markings. Recently, Sodashi, a pure white filly, has been causing quite a stir in Japan, where she is a graded stakes-winner with a record of 6: 5-0-0. Her dam, Buchiko, is loudly colored with a blanket of spots across her back.

Sodashi surges to the lead. Image Source
Buchiko in her racing days. Image Source

Buchiko’s dam was a pure-white mare sired by 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence, whose stunning black coat made him stand out on American tracks in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  (Interestingly, despite being a true black horse, Sunday Silence was registered as dark bay).

Thoroughbreds are not the only breed that can come in surprising colors. Standardbreds are known for being similarly colored, with bay and brown being the overwhelming default, but pinto markings have appeared. In Ireland, some tracks have even begun hosting “colored” races exclusively for piebald and skewbald standardbreds.

2018 Painted Mile at Portmarnock. Image Source

Friesians are known for being exclusively black with no white markings, which is a requirement for registration, but surprisingly some still carry the gene for chestnut coloring. Carriers of the gene can inadvertently be bred to each other, resulting in chestnut foals. One colt, Fire Magic, was the only chestnut stallion to be granted registration; he became famous as a performer in The Magical World of Dancing Horses and was even memorialized as a Breyer model. Today, thanks to the availability of genetic testing, a stallion must also be proven to be homozygous black in order to be registered, meaning he cannot produce chestnut offspring. Some enthusiasts are still breeding for the golden chestnut color, however, with stock not in the official studbook and a handful of heterozygous studs who were granted inclusion in the stallion book before the genetic testing requirement. These horses are affectionately referred to as “Fire Friesians” or “Fox Friesians,” and may be eligible for certain registries outside of the main stud book.

Fire Magic performing in “The Magical World of Dancing Horses” with owner Diane Rossi. Image Source

The Norwegian Fjord Horse is another breed characterized by its color; the horse is traditionally dun with a distinctly patterned mane. Many will be familiar with this breed from its depiction in the movie Frozen. While this dun color, or brunblakk,is the most common, the registry recognizes five color variations. A sixth color, kvit, is extremely rare, but genetically possible. These horses’ coats are so diluted their primitive markings are barely distinguishable.  

The five accepted colors of the Fjord horse, from left to right: brunblakk, ulsblakk, rødblakk, gulblakk, and grå.
. Image Source
A rare kvit Fjord Horse. Image Source

Finally, while Appaloosas are known for vibrant and flashy coats, even they can throw a few colorful surprises. Cs Arrogant Playboy (a.k.a. “Wicket”) boasts a rare pattern called “peacock leopard,” a variation of the standard leopard coat in which the dark spots are circled by a white halo and resemble blots of ink. His coat is so spectacular he graced the cover of the most recent edition of the Appaloosa Journal.

Cs Arrogant Playboy “Wicket,” owned by GWS Appaloosas. Image Source

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.

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