I am very pleased to announce the arrival of three new additions to the collections here at the NSLM. (Those of you who were here for our first Open Late concert got a sneak preview!) We had to wait quite a while to complete the installations – first for some landscaping and facility projects to be finished and then for the seemingly never-ending winter to end. But now that spring has sprung – so have our new sculptures!
We are grateful to the generous donors who gifted these lovely works to the permanent collection. Thanks are also due to the staff who helped make the installations possible. We installed the sculptures with the safety of our visitors and the safety of the artwork in mind.
Here is the roster of the newest outdoor works, who will welcome you to campus on your next visit.
This charming little filly, reaching to nibble at an itch, is number 2 of 5 casts by Jean Clagett. This piece was commissioned by donor Jacqueline B. Mars from the Virginia based artist, specifically for the NSLM. For any of you lucky enough to go to the Rolex 3-Day event at the Kentucky Horse Park this year, you would have seen another sculpture by Clagett – a life-size bronze of Olympian Bruce Davidson aboard his champion event horse, Eagle Lion.
Artist J. Clayton Bright is based in Pennsylvania. He is a sculptor, as well as a painter, who is best known for his animal subjects, like this life-size fox. Learn more about his process for creating bronze sculptures here (his studio website features a great slide show explaining the process for the “lost wax method”).
English artist Rupert Till has been working with wire for over 20 years. He started out sculpting steel wire (chicken wire) and now also works with bronze and copper. The figures he creates out of this surprisingly versatile medium are full of character, movement, and expression. Check out some of his other works here. This wire sculpture was generously donated by Reverend Elijah White, in memory of his late wife, Anita Graf White, who was a former M.F.H. of the Loudoun Hunt.
We’ll be adding some outdoor labels for these new sculptures soon. Now that nice weather is here, we hope you will come visit and enjoy the new outdoor installations!
Happy World Book Day! In celebration, I’m going to share with you the books that make the biggest impression when I give tours: the fore-edge painting books. Fore-edge painting is the very old practice of painting tiny images on the edges of the pages.
The book block is angled and clamped while the tiny watercolor painting is made.
After drying, the clamp is released and a bookbinder applies marbling or gilt to the closed book. This makes the painting invisible when the book is closed, but it appears when the pages are fanned.
NSLM’s fore-edge painting collection is housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. We have about 30 of them, and they depict riding, hunting, or fishing scenes.
Most of them date from the middle of the 19th Century to the early 20th Century. Although fore-edge painting is rare, there are still some artists who produce fore-edge art today.
Do you have a hidden painting in your old books? Check your book collections and fan the pages. You never know what you might find!
It’s been a while since I had a chance to write on the blog, so I figured now would be a good time to highlight one of our most distinctive treasures in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. The book is called Shokuba Ko, which translated from the original Japanese means, “How to Ornament Horses.” It’s part of the John H. Daniels Collection.
Shokuba Ko is a favorite on tours of the Library. It doesn’t appear on every tour, but it comes out often. I hope you’ll come to visit the Library soon, and maybe you can see this and many of our other printed treasures up close!
Don’t miss the chance to Meet the Artist Henry Koehler on Saturday, April 11th. He will be in the exhibition galleries to chat about Sporting Accoutrements: The Still Lifes of Henry Koehler from noon to 1 pm. It is a Free Admission Day. If you have time, make a day of it; stay for a showing of the movie classic, International Velvet, in the Library’s Founders’ Room beginning at 1 p.m. The film is also free of charge.
It was an honor to be invited to be on a first-name basis with Henry Koehler. He has been a noted sporting artist for over fifty years, and he may still be found at his easel. A great conversationalist, Henry said to me jokingly a while back, “Forgive me for repeating myself, but I will be eighty-eight years old in February.” I chuckled, but it struck me to the core. His charm, intelligence, and quick wit are timeless. I hadn’t done the math. Of course he is now eighty-eight; he was born in 1927.
Henry is from a generation of talented artists who found a niche in illustration art before the rise to photography in many periodicals. He graduated from Yale in 1950, moved to New York, and quickly became a successful commercial artist regularly featured in such magazines as Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Town & Country, and The New Yorker. Henry’s confident line drawings show his illustration background. Below is a sketch that he donated to the NSLM of sporting scholar Alexander Mackay-Smith, one of the institution’s founders. The charcoal is a preparatory study for the final version which appeared in the article, Rampart of Pedigree by Huston Horn (text only), in Sports Illustrated in February 11, 1963. (If you read the article, you will see that not much has changed in Middleburg!)
Henry had an early love of sailing, and one of his college roommates introduced him to foxhunting. He took to it immediately and followed the Litchfield County Hounds, in Middlebury, CT, for seven years. “One of the advantages of being a painter, if luck goes right, you can paint what you like, what you love to do anyway,” he says about his two passions. His success brought the attention of Jacqueline Kennedy, who saw his sailing images in Sports Illustrated and commissioned him to produce a painting of President Kennedy sailing as a gift to her husband. Below is a link to the informative CBS News article and delightful interview between Henry and his stepson, CBS correspondent Anthony Mason, delving into the fascinating story surrounding the commissions by the Kennedy family in the mid-1960s.
By the early 1960s, Henry recognized the negative impact photography was having on illustration art and turned his attention to easel painting. His enjoyment of hunting broadened to include observing and painting other equestrian pursuits. Since then, he has easily moved through international sporting circles sketching and painting many of the major race courses and tracks, polo events, and hunts in the United States, England, France, and Italy throughout his career. Henry has touched on not only equestrian pursuits, but most all traditional turf and field sports in his work, including fishing and shooting. To-date he has had over seventy gallery and museum exhibitions.
Although he has worked on commission, Henry is not known for formal portraiture. Instead, he prefers to capture the atmosphere of a given scene, looking for intimate and often informal moments, from every perspective. His observations of horse racing, for example, might include clamorous starts; studies of jockeys milling about, weighing in, or adjusting a boot, often from innovative angles; the saddling paddock; a jockey’s valet tending to tack; engaged spectators; and a grouping of discarded jockeys’ helmets.
In his varied approach to his compositions, Henry includes still lifes. These more contemplative works sometimes take a back seat to his more dynamic compositions. The exhibition, Sporting Accoutrements: The Still Lifes of Henry Koehler, was an opportunity to isolate Henry’s paintings of fox and stag hunting, racing, polo, fishing, and shooting paraphernalia, giving the visitor a quiet, introspective experience. Working with Advisor and NSLM Board Member Lorian Peralta-Ramos, each painting was selected to highlight the artist’s deep knowledge and respect for the objects and the nature of their use.
If you would like to learn more about Henry Koehler and his exhibition, come out to meet him in person on April 11th and have a chat. I promise, it will be worth your time. Exhibition catalogues are also available at the front desk and at the NSLM’s Amazon Marketplace.