You may have seen the hashtag #5womenartists on your feed or in the news in the last few weeks. It has been shared broadly, but it was first begun by the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in honor of Women’s History Month last year. “Using the hashtag #5womenartists, the campaign will encourage NMWA’s online community to help address the gender imbalance in the presentation of art both in the United States and internationally,” notes the NMWA webpage. Here are five women artists that you can find at the National Sporting Library & Museum.

#1 – Jean Bowman was a leading 20th century, American equestrian portraitist and a founding member of the American Academy of Equine Art.

Jean Bowman, Mongo
Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917-1994), Mongo on the Turf at Laurel Racetrack, Maryland with Charles Burr Up, 1964, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2012 © John H. Pentecost

The painful reality is that unlike institutions such as NMWA which focus on female artists, only 3-5% of museum permanent collection objects in the U.S. and Europe have been produced by women (NMWA’s Get the Facts). Depressing, right?

#2 – Susan Catherine Moore Waters was an early female artist who attained recognition during her lifetime for her animal paintings, exhibiting at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.

Susan Waters, Chickens & Raspberries
Susan Catherine Moore Waters (American, 1823-1900), Chickens and Raspberries, c.1880, oil on canvas, 24 x 16 ½ inches, Gift of The Phelan Collection, 2012

I was curious to see how the NSLM’s permanent collection would hold up to this statistic. 41 objects by females out of 962 paintings, works on paper, sculpture, prints, and trophies from 17th century to the present were recorded in the 2015 full inventory. This equals 4.3% females.

#3 – Tessa Pullan was commissioned by Paul Mellon to sculpt the three-quarter life-size bronze of his winning Thoroughbred Sea Hero, now installed in the NSLM’s boxwood garden.

Tessa Pullan, Sea Hero
Tessa Pullan, (British, b.1953) Sea Hero, bronze on slate stone base, 96 x 88 x 29 ¼ inches, Bequest of Paul Mellon, 1999, Acquired 2014 © Tessa Pullan

Looking at objects made from the 20th century to the present in isolation, however, reflects a stronger number of 27.5% women. This mirrors the rising number of female artists attaining success throughout the 20th century. Additionally, 31% of the original art that came to the NSLM since the Museum opened in 2011 was created by women artists.

#4 – Clarice Smith’s exhilarating three-dimensional exploration of a horse race brings an edgy and contemporary perspective to the traditional subject.

Clarice Smith, Gallop
Clarice Smith, (American, b.1933), Gallop, 2009, oil with gold and copper leaf on canvas, on 5-panel screen, 50 x 77 ½ inches, Gift of Clarice Smith, 2015 © Clarice Smith

In addition to the artists from the permanent collection highlighted in this post, I must add Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur (French, 1822 – 1899) to my #5womenartists. She was an innovator in her time and stands as a beacon to 20th century women artists. Even though NSLM does not yet have a work by Bonheur in its permanent collection, you can currently see one of her paintings at the Museum on loan. She is on our wish list, as the collection continues to grow through generous donations and bequests.

#5 – French painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur is one of the most revered artists of the 19th century. See her painting in The Chronicle of the Horse in Art exhibition on loan through March 19, 2017.

Marie-Rosalie (Rosa) Bonheur (French, 1822-1899), Highland Ponies, 1861, oil on canvas, 14 ¼ x 20 inches, Collection of Amy Chuckrow (on loan to The Chronicle of the Horse in Art exhibition through March 19, 2017)

We as keepers of history do not wish to revise the past, but we have our eyes open to the promise of the future. Today 51% of visual artists are women (NMWA’s Get the Facts).

What are your favorite #5womenartists? We would love to hear from you.


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was 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

 

The village of Middleburg and its surrounding beautiful Virginia hunt country boast numerous famous residents and visitors, both past and present. The portrait painter Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand (1876-1941) can now officially be added to this list.

Rand was among the first females in the United States to succeed as a professional portrait artist. She was a contemporary of Mary Foote who painted Rand’s portrait.

Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 image source: https://i0.wp.com/www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg
Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 [ image source: http://www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg ]

Rand was formally trained, having attended classes at Cowles Art School in Boston and the Art Student League in New York City. She received instruction from some of the greats of her generation, studying at William Merritt Chase’s school in Shinnecock, New York, and with Frederick MacMonnies in Paris.

Ellen Emmet Rand, Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg ]
Rand is perhaps best known for painting the official presidential portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, among the hundreds of portraits which she completed of politicians, captains of industry, socialites, artists, and scholars throughout her over forty-year career.

In 1936, the Sporting Gallery in New York City held an exhibition titled Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A., featuring twenty of her hunt paintings. Among these, seven were of Virginia-based sitters. I have been researching this exhibition for an essay I am contributing to a book being developed for the University of Connecticut/William Benton Museum’s upcoming retrospective exhibition, The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941) and the Persuasion of Portraiture, on view in Connecticut from October 2018 through March 2019.

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Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 from the Frick Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files

In exploring Ellen Emmet Rand’s densely-written diaries (years 1918 and 1926-1941) which are housed in the Ellen Emmet Rand archives held at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, I am beginning to discover entries about Rand’s travels to Middleburg and the surrounding region to paint. Some of these portraits were in the 1936 exhibition.

Rand stayed at the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg in 1929 to paint the portrait of Foxcroft School founder and jt-MFH of the Middleburg Hunt, Miss Charlotte Noland (#7 in the Sporting Gallery pamphlet). Rand received what would become one of her favorite mares, Gandora, in lieu of payment for the painting. She wrote on March 8, 1929:

The deal for this portrait is a very good mare of Miss Charlotte’s  thoroughly broken + a fine jumper + a good size + a good horse quite nice looking. That is Miss Charlotte’s return for the portrait + I am well satisfied. (1929 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

Considering Rand was making between $3,000 and $4,500 per painting that year, it must have been quite a horse!

, The Collection of Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Miss Charlotte Noland, Joint M.F.H., The Middleburg Hunt, 1929, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, Foxcroft School, Middleburg, Virginia [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199 ]
In April and October of 1930, Rand stayed at the Orange County Hunt Club in The Plains  to paint Mrs. Harriet Harper and her husband Mr. Fletcher Harper, MFH of the Orange County (and an NSLM founder) respectively, #1 and 2 in the 1936 exhibition. (Read more about the couple here: Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher Harper by John Connolly) Rand only drew two sketches in her 1930 Diary; both were of Fletcher Harper. She made what she called “a fake start” of Mr. Harper’s portrait on October 1,1930:

October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand
Sketch of Fletcher Harper, October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand, 1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut

I started F. this p.m. Made a fake start, the position + lights were not quite right! I will make a fresh start tomorrow. He is awfully good fun to paint. (1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

The passage most likely refers to the incomplete painting in the NSLM’s permanent collection.

Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972

The artist, however, did not only come to Virginia hunt country to work. She and her husband William Blanchard Rand were both accomplished equestrians and sometimes made trips to The Plains on and around Thanksgiving to ride, shop for horses, attend the Warrenton Point-to-Point, visit with friends and acquaintances, foxhunt, and hilltop. Rand’s portrait completed in January 1936 of her husband, who was MFH of Old Chatham and a polo player, depicts him in his hunt attire. It was #12  in the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

William B. Rand, ca. 1935
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), William B. Rand, ca. 1935, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.18.jpg ]
It is not surprising that Ellen Emmet Rand as a portrait painter who loved horses would be drawn to the Middleburg area. I look forward to discovering other local places she may have rested her head as I continue to delve into her first-person account to research the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

If you are willing to share information about any Ellen Emmet Rand works, especially the whereabouts of any of the Sporting Gallery exhibition paintings listed above, please contact me. It is an opportunity to flesh out scholarship with nine specialists who are focusing on the life and times of Ellen Emmet Rand. Not only will the research support this project, but we are developing an exhibition for the National Sporting Library & Museum as well.

Writer's Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Writer’s Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Project lead and Curator: Alexis Boylan, UConn-Art & Art History; Essay Contributors: Emily Burns, Auburn University; Betsy Fahlman, Arizona State University; William Harris, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (not pictured); Elizabeth Lee, Dickinson College; Emily Mazzola, Fitchburg Art Museum; Claudia Pfeiffer, National Sporting Library & Museum (not pictured); Susan Spiggle, UConn- School of Business; Thayer Tolles, Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Christopher Vials, UConn-English (not pictured).

pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was 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

 

 

You see, I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name. It felt good to be out of the rain. – Dewey Newell

I once read that Dewey Newell, a member of the band, America, wrote the lyrics for the quintessential 1970s flower-power ballad, A Horse with No Name, inspired by the works of two artists – Salvador Dali’s surrealist desserts and M.C. Escher’s horsemen.

Salvador Dali, La persistencia de la memoria (1931)
Salvador Dali, La persistencia de la memoria (1931), source: https://uploads5.wikiart.org/images/salvador-dali/the-persistence-of-memory-1931.jpg

 

M.C. Escher, Horseman (No. 67), 1946
M.C. Escher, Horseman (No. 67), 1946, source: http://www.mcescher.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/E67-MC-Escher-No-67-Horseman-1946.jpg

Works such as these are obviously not intended to depict a particular horse. Sporting portraits, though, are usually realistic renderings of the unique physical traits a specific equine subject. Whenever I come across a portrait of an unnamed horse, America’s song inevitably crosses my mind, even if for a second. Groom Leading a Stallion to the Paddock, 1884, by Henry Stull was one of the paintings that made me hum the haunting tune to myself. The oil on canvas is a life estate bequest from George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. and has been on extended loan from Mrs. Jacqueline L. Ohrstrom to the National Sporting Library & Museum for several years.

Stull, Duke of Magenta
Henry Stull (American, 1851-1913) Groom Leading a Stallion to the Paddock,1884, oil on canvas, 29 x 39 inches, Collection of Jacqueline Ohrstrom

Who was this dark bay stallion? The painting also puzzled me because it is a bit of a departure for Stull and shows British influences.  The early composition was completed when he was still working as an illustrator, before he turned completely to easel painting (Burlew  94). The horizon line is low, which allowed an artist to contrast the subject against the sky as a background. The groom’s face is hidden. Was Stull masking his weakness in human portraiture, or was he emulating earlier sporting artists such as John Wootton who sometimes positioned grooms or jockeys facing away from the viewer or obstructed by compositional elements?

John Wootton, (British, 1682–1764) The Duke of Hamilton's Grey Racehorse, 'Victorious,' at Newmarket, ca. 1725 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection [source: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1668034]
John Wootton, (British, 1682–1764) The Duke of Hamilton’s Grey Racehorse, ‘Victorious,’ at Newmarket, ca. 1725 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, source: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1668034
Stull’s painting is now on view in the exhibition, The Chronicle of the Horse in Art, at the National Sporting Library & Museum through March 26th.  In researching the exhibit, I came across this Chronicle of the Horse cover:

The Chronicle of the Horse, Vol. 37, No. 10: March 8, 1974. Front cover. © The Chronicle of the Horse, Inc.
The Chronicle of the Horse, Vol. 37, No. 10: March 8, 1974. Front cover. © The Chronicle of the Horse, Inc.

It was a revelation. The horse had a name. The famed Duke of Magenta was a Preakness, Withers, Belmont, and Travers Stakes winner, and the painting was completed for the race horse’s owner George L. Lorillard, as noted in the unpublished manuscript, A Glow of Silver: Henry Stull, 1851-1913, by Frederick B. Burlew held in the NSLM’s manuscript collection. Additionally, the painting was previously owned by another founder of the NSLM, sporting scholar Alexander Mackay-Smith.

There is nothing that pleases me more than to reconnect the dots of history and provenance. “In the desert you can remember your name. ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain. La La la-lalalala…” – Dewey Newell


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was 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

For those of you who have been to one of my gallery talks, you’ve probably figured out that I love to share ideas about sporting art, sporting culture, and related trivia. It’s a passion to bring this material to broader audiences. Put me behind a podium, however, introducing someone with an impressive list of credentials, and I’m like a deer in headlights! All of a sudden I’m responsible for summarizing someone’s accomplishments. This is the worst kind of pressure, and I am not good at rote memorization.

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (American, 1819 - 1905) American Deer, 1857 oil on canvas, 7 ⅛ x 5 ⅝ inches Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Greenan, 2011
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (American, 1819 – 1905) American Deer, 1857, oil on canvas, 7 ⅛ x 5 ⅝ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Greenan, 2011

I like to think I’m more like A.F. Tait’s American Deer when presenting gallery talks, poised and dignified (with a dose of caffeine). You might have seen this painting in the second floor Museum galleries, but it is currently off view. Although Tait painted several full-size canvases of deer, some reminiscent of Sir Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen in the Museums of Scotland collection, the small three-quarter portrait in the NSLM collection is unusual for him. It depicts an eight-point buck with a velvet rack and summer coat framed by foliage. Fun fact – Did you know that antlers used for sparring in the fall are rich with nerves and sensitive to pain when in velvet? Bucks are extremely aware of their racks and avoid contact with objects such as tree limbs during this time.

Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) Monarch of the Glen; National Museums Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/monarch-of-the-glen-184975
Edwin Landseer (English, 1802-1873), Monarch of the Glen, 1851
National Museums Scotland
image source: http://www.artuk.org/artworks/monarch-of-the-glen-184975

Landseer’s magnificent portrait of a red deer in the Highlands shows the buck proudly displaying his twelve-point rack and thick winter coat. Paintings like these were embraced by an ever-increasing urban population as windows into nature.

I know I would not get tired of looking at Landseer’s painting. Working in a converted 1804 Federal-style house means that the Curatorial offices in the Museum are below ground level. Mine is the only one with a window. I enjoy the filtered sunlight and occasionally get a glimpse of the lawn service crew mowing the grass.

Curator of Art's window

I think I speak for George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian John Connolly, Curator of Permanent Collections Nicole Stribling, and myself in saying, we enjoy sharing the topics we love with  like-minded people instead of just a computer screen. Gallery Talks are about sharing ideas and intended to be informal chats that last about a half hour. If you’ve been wondering if you would like to commit your Wednesday afternoon to a Gallery Talk, know that we are down in the trenches and looking forward to coming up for some good conversation. See you next Wednesday at 2 pm!


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was 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

Growing up, one of my favorite books was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Like Alice, I would have gladly followed the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole.  I get the same sense of heady adventure from research. Not much is more satisfying than to dive into the proverbial rabbit hole, follow what might seem to be disjointed paths, only to resurface with new connections.

Researching the upcoming loan exhibition, The Chronicle of the Horse in Art, on view from August 26, 2016 through March 26, 2017, has been one of these grand adventures. Several major loans including works by the sporting art masters George Stubbs, Ben Marshall, and John Ferneley, Sr. are coming from Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Yale Center for British Art, Genesee Country Village & Museum, and private lenders across the country.

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Ben Marshall (English, 1768-1835), John Gully (detail), c. 1815, oil on canvas, 13 ¾ x 12 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, by 1975, reproduced on the 5/30/1975 Chronicle of the Horse cover

On the surface the exhibition concept seems straightforward: find the current location of representative artwork reproduced on the covers of  the famed equestrian magazine, The Chronicle of the Horse (CoTH), and request permission for loans. Simple, right? Not when you start to take into consideration that the magazine started featuring artwork on the cover in August 1945 and continued weekly until March 2012. There were approximately 3,400 covers to unearth, and what we found was that many of the rabbit holes led straight back to NSLM’s permanent collection. As a result, several paintings from the NSLM’s permanent collection will be included as well.

Ohrstrom Sr - Haupt
Eric Guide Haupt (American, 1891 – 1984), Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. (1894 – 1955), oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the Ohrstrom Family

Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. by Eric Haupt appeared on the 11/18/1955 cover along with an obituary written by Editor Alexander Mackay-Smith on page 2.  Ohrstrom, Sr. had taken ownership of the magazine in 1952 until his passing in November 1955. Mackay-Smith and Ohrstrom, Sr. were also founders of the National Sporting Library in 1954.

Edward Troye (American, 1808 - 1874) American Eclipse, 1834, 1843 Oil on canvas, 25 ¼ x 30 ¼ inches Gift of Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., c. 1974
Edward Troye (American, 1808 – 1874), American Eclipse, 1834, 1843, oil on canvas, 25 ¼ x 30 ¼ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., c. 1974

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. took over his father’s role in both organizations and led each for five decades. Ohrstrom, Jr. was an inveterate sporting art collector. On 6/2/1976, American Eclipse, 1834, painted in 1843 by Edward Troye, appeared on the CoTH cover with the credit “Courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. George L. Ohrstrom and the National Sporting Library.” The reproduction was accompanied by a detailed article by Mackay-Smith about the legendary thoroughbred painted by Troye and other art donations to NSL.

Given the NSLM’s and CoTH’s intertwined histories, these works were not a surprise. Others, however, were. We were not able to allocate the time for what would have conservatively been a two-month, full-time job looking through the bound volumes of the CoTH magazines in the Library lower level.  We instead relied on a finding aid and a list shared by the CoTH to do strategic searches. We found that the descriptive titles for the works on the covers magazine often didn’t match the currently known titles. The Library’s digitization of its microfilm holdings of many of the CoTH issues recently made searching infinitely easier. 

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Alfred J. Munnings (1878-1959), Shrimp with Ponies in the Ringland Hills Near Norwich, c. 1911, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008 © Castle House Trust (Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum)

It turns out that one of the most important paintings in NSLM’s collection was reproduced on the 4/19/1957 cover under the title “Welsh Ponies.” Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum provided the image well before Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan purchased Sir Alfred Munnings’ Shrimp with Ponies in the Ringland Hills Near Norwich, c. 1911, and later donated it to NSLM.

Bowman Mongo
Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917 – 1994), Mongo on the Turf at Laurel Racetrack, Maryland with Charles Burr Up, 1964, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2012 © John H. Pentecost

Even a fairly recent donation to NSLM appeared on the 11/13/1964 cover, a portrait of the race horse Mongo with jockey up by Jean Bowman, image courtesy of Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott. An article appeared in the issue about the turf and dirt track champion home-bred at duPont Scott’s Montpelier.

Much like Alice in Wonderland, I find myself waking up in the exact place I started,  refreshed and excited to share the wonderful stories found in the The Chronicle of the Horse, the resulting exhibition, and the research reconnecting the past to the present.

On to the next rabbit hole…

RELATED EVENTS:

NSLM Members are cordially invited to attend a Members’ preview, reception, and gallery talk by George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art Claudia Pfeiffer to celebrate the opening of The Chronicle of the Horse in Art exhibition on Thursday, August 25th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. To become a member and take part in his event, please contact Frances Monroe at 540.687.6542 ext. 26 or fmonroe@nationalsporting.org.

A public reception will be held on Saturday, August 27th. Join NSLM’s George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art Claudia Pfeiffer, for a coffee reception from 10:00 to 10:30 and then follow her on a custom tour of the exhibition.


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions.

email: cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

With Carriage Day scheduled for this summer, we thought it a great opportunity to highlight a spectacular object in the Permanent Art Collection. For those of you that have seen it in person, you will likely never forget it – the sterling silver model of a park drag that came to the Museum in 2011.

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Park Drag; a Tabletop Centerpiece with Custom-made Elkington & Co. Mahogany Carrying Case, English, c. 1910, sterling silver on a marble and wooden base 17 ½ x 41 ½ x 9 ½ inches (excluding marble and wooden base), Museum purchase with funds donated by: Hector Alcalde, Helen K. Groves, Manuel H. Johnson, Jacqueline B. Mars and Jacqueline L. Ohrstrom, 2011

It is the largest known silver model of a coach, measuring a substantial 3 ½ feet long excluding the base. The piece was intended to be a tabletop centerpiece decoration – if you can imagine a soirée worthy of such a fine object.

Impressive I know, but why is it mysterious? It seems to have surfaced out of thin air in 1950 even though it is thought to be a circa 1910 creation. Curators are sticklers for provenance. It makes us nervous when there isn’t a complete line of ownership from the point of creation of an object to the present. It makes us even more nervous when English sterling silver doesn’t bear the hallmarks it should.

collage
A&W, lion passant, leopard’s head, and capital letter P hallmarks on footrest of coach and various submarks

The model has plenty of hallmarks – a full set on the footrest of the coach and submarks on all of the pieces, each applied as a result of an assay (formal metallurgical analysis). The capital letter P in the square indicates the year of assay – 1950. The leopard’s head is the mark of the London Assay Office. The lion passant represents sterling silver. The A&W hallmark is that of a small silversmith firm no longer in operation, Austin and Williams, first registered in the London Assay Office in 1933.

The hallmarking system has historically been rigorously enforced in England to maintain standards of quality and consistency. For an object to be sold, a mark of origin of the assay office, a standard of fineness mark designating the grade of the silver, a maker’s mark, and a date letter are required. Based on this, the 1950 hallmarks on the coach directly contradict the assertion that the object was produced circa 1910.

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The piece was created with a wide variety of silversmithing techniques. The hackneys were cast via the lost wax method which allows for greater detail.
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The coach is made with sheet silver. The wheels, lamps, and horn are separately cast pieces. The basket is woven from of silver wire.

This little bombshell is enough to make any curator’s blood run cold, but it wasn’t the only research challenge. Some of you may have encountered the description of this piece as “The Vanderbilt Coach” promulgated while it was under the ownership of Mr. George Mossman, a member of the esteemed English Coaching Club and an expert carriage maker, who acquired it c. 1950. The model carries with it written testimonials that it was commissioned and displayed by the renowned historic figure and internationally-acclaimed champion carriage driver, Alfred G. Vanderbilt himself. After extensive review of these documents, we have been forced to connect some of the key documentation to a separate, much smaller-scale sterling silver model.

Vanderbilt, however, would have certainly been one of a few who might have been able to bypass the hallmarking system, especially if the model was intended for export to the U.S. The quality of the model and its magnitude point to someone with the means and desire to have it created. The problem is that there is to-date no known primary written source that confirms the original ownership of the model.  Could Vanderbilt’s untimely passing on the Lusitania in 1915 explain the mystery surrounding the creation of object? Was the sale never completed?

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The model is displayed atop its custom-made carrying case built by Elkington & Co. circa 1910.
Elkington label
The case lining has been replaced, but the original Elkington & Co. Ltd. Silversmiths label is still intact.

The park drag model came to the collection along with a custom-made carrying case built by Elkington & Co. circa 1910.  The esteemed silver firm was famed in the 19th century for its elaborate silver tableau displays at international fairs. The NSLM’s sterling silver park drag rivals these works which represent hundreds of hours of silversmithing and finishing techniques at the highest levels. It would certainly make much more sense that a piece like the coach would have been produced by the great Elkington & Co. instead of a small firm in existence for only a few decades with no recorded output on this order.

aa0170
Stereograph No 126. The Alhambra Table, by Elkington & Co., The International Exhibition of 1862 [source: http://www.worldofstereoviews.com/images/1862/aa0170.jpg ]
After hundreds of hours of research, interviews, and expert silversmith and coaching opinions, I am as of yet unable to fully explain the hallmarks and the gaps in the provenance of the park drag tabletop centerpiece. I remain hopeful that one day we will be able to solve the mystery at the Museum, but at the end of the day, the silver coach speaks for itself as a magnificent work of art, regardless of who owned it or made it.

If you have any information to share regarding the model, please contact me at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org.


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions.

People often ask how exhibitions are developed. Sometimes it starts with a book, in this case – Peter Corbin: An Artist’s Creel. Peter Corbin presented the hardbound volume by Tom Davis and foreword by John Merwin to the National Sporting Library & Museum a few years ago. This sounds a lot more formal than it was. Peter was on his way back to Millbrook, NY, from the 2013 Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, GA, where he’d been the featured artist. He popped into the Museum, introduced himself, and dropped off the hardbound volume published by Hudson Hill Press in 2005. The exchange was brief, but the cover of the book captured my imagination. It sat on my desk for weeks reminding me of how much I love Wyoming.

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The 24 x 40-inch painting, Partners, 2004,  reproduced on the front cover was loaned by Mr. & Mrs. William C. Egan, III to the current NSLM exhibition.

I was already familiar with Peter’s work and only now feel marginally better admitting that we had strongly considered one of his paintings from the American Museum of Fly Fishing collection for the 2012 NSLM Angling in the Western World exhibition. We had a lot of tough choices to make in the twentieth-century section for the broad survey of the topic spanning over 300 years and ended up not including his painting.

We try to touch on a variety of NSLM’s core mission topics as often as possible which, other than equestrian pursuits, includes field sports such as freshwater fly fishing and wingshooting. As I thumbed through An Artist’s Creel, I was reminded that a member of the NSLM had suggested that the recognized sporting and wildlife artist, who is also an avid wingshooter and angler himself, would be a good candidate to consider for a fly fishing exhibit.

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Power and Grace, 2001, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, Collection of the Treiber Family, © Peter Corbin, 2001

The emerald green water and the energy of the leaping tarpon in Power and Grace caught my eye. Although Peter has also painted many freshwater scenes, this was the opposite of a depiction of a serene, contemplative moment. There’s been debate in fly fishing circles about whether fresh and saltwater fly fishing can even be considered the same sport. The NSLM’s collections focus on freshwater. With the addition of the George “Chappie” and Mary Chapman book collection in 2012, the Library became one of the most comprehensive research centers on twentieth-century freshwater fly fishing in the United States.

The diversity of the angling compositions in Peter’s book intrigued me. All captured the essence of some of the finest fly fishing waters in North America.

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Near the Net, 1980, acrylic on canvas, 19 x 32 inches, Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Walter C. Teagle, III, © Peter Corbin, 1980

Near the Net, 1980, an acrylic painting of salmon fishing on the Restigouche River, Silas Beach, Quebec, Canada, won Peter the American Salmon Federation’s Artist of the Year in  1981. I learned that he came from a family of fly fisherman; his father taught him to cast his first fly by the age of seven. His great-grandfather started a hunting and fishing club in the Catskills, and Peter spent much time over the years trout fishing in the region, like the fly fisherman in the painting, The Sound of the Falls, 2002.

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The Sound of the Falls, 2002, oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches, Private Collection, ©Peter Corbin, 2002

Peter’s lifetime love for sport and art are reflected in each of his paintings. All of the works on view through July 3rd in Line Dance: The Art of Fly Fishing by Peter Corbin were selected to show the variety of compositions for which he has become known during his almost forty year career.

To gain a bit more insight into Peter’s quiet passion, motivations, and philosophy on art, we invite you to join him for a Gallery Talk on March 19th at 10:00 am and to take a moment to watch the 10-minute narrated slideshow below which he created to accompany the exhibition. A catalog is also available if you’d like to learn more about Peter Corbin’s sporting art career and fly fishing adventures. We look forward to seeing you in the galleries.

…and to think it all started with a book.