The Elegant Art. . . of Parting Company with your Horse

Many of the works of art in the NSLM collection show gallant wins, bucolic scenes, or noble portraits. And some show the slightly less noble side of equestrian sport. Many sporting artists – who were oftentimes equestrians themselves – showed their sense of humor about the inevitable:  when a rider parts company with her or his horse. Below are just a few examples from the permanent collection which show riders and their mounts parting ways.

John Ferneley, Sr, (British, 1781-1860), The Hunt in Belvoir Vale, c.1835 oil on canvas, 48 x 133 in. Gift of Kathryn James Clark in memory of Stephen C. Clark, Jr., 2013
John Ferneley, Sr, (British, 1781-1860), The Hunt in Belvoir Vale, c.1835, oil on canvas, 48 x 133 inches, Gift of Kathryn James Clark in memory of Stephen C. Clark, Jr., 2013

This mural-sized painting by John Ferneley, Sr., shows a hunting scene in England’s Melton Mowbray, in the 1830s. The group of huntsmen shown in the foreground have all been identified. However, if you look closely, you can see a fellow in the background (who remains nameless) begrudgingly following behind his horse on foot.

Ferneley detail_web

One of the exhibitions currently on view in the Museum, Picturing English Pastimes: British Sporting Prints at the NSLM, includes several works by artist Henry Thomas Alken. His panorama of the 1818 Epsom Derby features a parade of spectators heading to the races – some of whom can barely control their mounts.

Henry Thomas Alken (English, 1785-1851) Epsom Races – The Derby Day, 1818 hand-colored aquatint, each 2 ½ x 20 inches Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012
Henry Thomas Alken (English, 1785-1851), (detail) Epsom Races – The Derby Day, 1818, hand-colored aquatint, each 2 ½ x 20 inches, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

The illustrations of American artist Paul Brown (1893-1958) are much loved by riders and non-riders alike. With his published collections of drawings titled Spills and Thrills, Good Luck and Bad, and Ups and Downs, he became famous for capturing crashes and near misses at equestrian events in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

Paul Brown, Happy Landing, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013
Paul Brown, Happy Landing, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013 [(c) Paul Brown]
Inscription: Happy Landing – Louis D’Or pecked – slid – scrambled and the boy went out on his mounts neck – Horse recovered with a great forward and upward thrust of his legs and a toss of his head. Up went jockey Harroway – up and off.  Llangollen Farms 1932.

Paul Brown, Mistakes and Great Recoveries, 1940, pencil on paper, 9 1/4 x 12 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013
Paul Brown, Mistakes and Great Recoveries, 1940, pencil on paper, 9 1/4 x 12 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013 [(c) Paul Brown]
Inscription: Mistakes and great recoveries by mounts and men – from Maryland, Virginia and Long Island

Paul Brown, Mike Phipps vs. Stewart Iglehart, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013
Paul Brown, Mike Phipps vs. Stewart Iglehart, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013 [(c) Paul Brown]
Inscription: “Mike” Phipps vs. Stewart Iglehart, A bump form behind by “Mike” – “Stewie” in the air – rolling boy – back in saddle again and the game went on. Meadow Brook 1931.

Cecil Aldin (English, 1870-1935), The Grand National Series: No. 3, Valentine's Brook, c. 1823, photogravure, Gift of Dr. Laura Jane Schrock
Cecil Aldin (English, 1870-1935), (detail) The Grand National Series: No. 3, Valentine’s Brook, c. 1823, photogravure, Gift of Dr. Laura Jane Schrock

 

Whether you are a 19th century fox hunter, or a 21st century aspiring Olympian, we all end up on the ground occasionally. The artists in our collection like to help remind us of that. Here’s to everyone keeping their feet safely planted in the irons!

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