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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inscription: Mistakes and great recoveries by mounts and men – from Maryland, Virginia and Long Island
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.
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!