A Lifetime of Drawing: Paul Brown and the Searles Collection

As a Visitor Services Associate at the National Sporting Library & Museum, I often talk to guests about two artworks: an oil, Over the Brush Fence, 1930 and a watercolor, Portrait of a ‘Chaser, 1935. Both were painted by Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958).  Visitors enjoy reminiscing about Paul Brown drawings, prints, and illustrations that they have seen over the years.

Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958) Over the Brush Fence, 1930, oil on canvas, 
26 x 32 7/8 x 1 7/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist's daughter, 2011
Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958) Over the Brush Fence, 1930, oil on canvas,
26 x 32 7/8 x 1 7/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Brown was a well-known equestrian artist and illustrator. He captured the excitement of polo matches, horse shows, and steeplechase events in whimsical, yet accurate detail. He also illustrated over 100 children’s books. NSLM is lucky to be the repository of the largest Paul Brown archive of first edition books and artwork in the world.  An especially intimate part of this collection came to us in 2011 from his daughter, Nancy Brown Searles.  Part of the Searles Collection is an archival box filled with drawings in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor. Many are charming sketches drawn on nothing more than a torn piece of newsprint or remnant of an art board. 

[untitled], 1935, illustration, pen and ink, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11,
Searles Collection, 2011

The oldest drawing is of a lion, signed “Paul Brown, age 6.”

[untitled], 1899, pencil on paper, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, 
Searles Collection, 2011
[untitled], 1899, pencil on paper, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, Searles Collection, 2011

There are also endearing sketches and drawings that include handwritten notes to family and friends.

 [untitled], early 20th century, watercolor, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, 
Searles Collection, 2011
[untitled], early 20th century, watercolor, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11,
Searles Collection, 2011

In addition to my position at the museum, I am working, part-time, on a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at St Andrews University in Scotland.  As part of my collection-based project, I am cataloguing the Searles Collection. I write condition reports and confirm dates so that relationships between drawings in the museum and books in the library can fill out a narrative of the artist’s career.  Paul Brown’s joie de vivre and consummate draftsmanship shines through in all his work from early sketches to mature drawings.

A few works from this treasure box, as well as some of his books from the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, will be on display in the Library’s Mars Gallery beginning in late September.  Artwork from the archive will be seen, publicly, for the first time ever!  This small exhibit may make you think twice before you throw away a box of childhood drawings.  You never know where the pen, pencil, or paint brush may take you. Check our website soon for exhibition details.

Grace Pierce is a part-time Visitor Services Associate at the National Sporting Library & Museum.  She is also pursuing a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at St Andrews University in Scotland. When not greeting visitors at the museum or cataloguing in art storage, Grace can be found on the links in St Andrews. 

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