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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

 

I woke up at 3 am on the first morning of the sold-out Two-Day Colin Barker Photography Workshop and groaned. I was the organizer of the program, and it was pouring buckets. The storm woke me up again a half hour before my alarm clock. It was still pouring. I got nervous. I wanted people to have an authentic experience but not this authentic.

Thankfully, by the time I arrived at the Orange County Hounds kennels to meet Huntsman Reg Spreadborough the sky was already starting to clear. Reg had said he would try to delay feeding,  and I could hear the hounds baying in complaint even before I opened my car door. Colin had also taken it upon himself to visit Reg  in the morning and the night before. I wasn’t surprised. I’d met Colin for the first time the previous day, and every impression I had of him in collaborating on his National Sporting Library & Museum exhibition was confirmed. A soft-spoken man, the artist’s sincerity, quiet passion, and focus come through in his richly-detailed, meticulous images.

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From Part of the Pack: The Hunt at Petworth, Colin Barker’s Hound Climbing Charlton, Forest Valley, archival photographic print, 23 ¼ x 33 inches, © Colin Barker

It is one thing to see Colin’s finished work in the Part of the Pack: The Hunt at Petworth exhibition on view at NSLM through January 10th. It is quite another to have the opportunity to watch the recognized photographer in action from idea to completion.

Colin is on the constant lookout for raw, earthy, unstaged moments. He was disappointed that it had stopped raining. The photographer excels, even thrives, in pushing himself and his equipment in extremes of weather and low light. He was determined that the group would have a challenging experience and receive a behind-the-scenes-view of a day in the life of hunt staff (while being followed around by Paparazzi at every turn, anyway).

As the workshop participants arrived, we held a brief introduction. It was a great mix of professional, amateur, and aspiring photographers. Colin stressed that he wanted everyone to respect each other’s space as we lined up in the cramped hallway to the kennel interior for the opportunity to photograph the hounds feeding. He advised us to let our lenses acclimate in the humidity and described the pecking order in which the  pack would eat.

The kennel hall
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Photographing feeding time

The kennels were immaculately kept, and it was exhilarating to stand in the midst of over thirty hounds as they pressed up against my legs. I was expecting chaos, but the pack was surprisingly delicate and almost civilized as it fed. Colin discussed at length his motivation for calling his series “Part of the Pack”. It was raw moments such as these.

A bird’s eye view

Next, we followed the huntsman and whip as they exercised the hounds. The hunt staff was obviously keeping the pace slower to give us plenty of photo opportunities.  Colin mentioned that the hounds had already followed Reg on a bicycle that morning, their usual routine.

Curious hounds and sporting Paparazzi
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Up close and personal

The puppy kennels were the final stop. Colin asked Reg to pick one up and hold it for a while, not something that is commonly done in training foxhounds. It was an endearing opportunity.

Reg opens the puppy kennel gate
Reg opens the puppy kennel gate

Yet, Colin did not want us to leave here. He’d asked the huntsman to discuss the ins and outs of looking after the kennels and hounds year-round. As we gathered around him, Reg was professional, sincere, and open to a wide range of questions. He and the Orange County Hound staff as a whole had set aside hours of their day, and we were so appreciative of their efforts to present an intimate and engaging morning.

As I settled into my car seat to drive back to NSLM, I was reminded that Colin had prepared us for the powerful smells in the kennels. I didn’t even notice the odor wafting up from my favorite hiking shoes until that moment. I had to open the windows, but it was totally worth it. Here was the perfect reminder of my authentic experience.

Back at NSLM we spent the rest of the day in class.  It was a gift to listen to Colin’s experiences following the CL & C Hunt and the stories of camaraderie and fortitude that are the backbone of the Part of the Pack photography series as he presented a slide show of his body of work.

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Colin discusses images in the Part of the Pack series

We then had a chance to “get our geek on” when he switched gears to  share black and white post-processing tips in Photoshop.  While many professionals  keep their skills close to their chests, Colin was again generous with his knowledge.

Overnight, we were invited to apply what we learned to a small selection of our own photos. There wasn’t nearly enough time, especially after learning that Colin works on a single image for as long as forty hours to coax the most detail, nuance, and contrast out of a raw file. I was honestly a little bit nervous about the critique session, but I had nothing to worry about.  When constructive criticism was offered it was tactful and spot on, and Colin seemed impressed with the quality of the work we produced.  I thoroughly enjoyed viewing everyone else’s  creative angles. Each person in the room had experienced a moment that was their own unique story to share.

Here are some of mine…

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The Second Wave
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Leaving the Kennels (an experiment with post-processing settings)
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The Whip
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Over 100 years later, not much has changed.
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The huntsman’s son whizzes by…
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Trust
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Do you have a treat in your pocket?

My goal was to improve my image processing skills, but in the end I learned the most about taking more time to connect with my subjects, not just to frame them.  I think I echo the sentiments of the rest of the workshop participants in wanting to start the weekend over again … maybe this time, with a little bit of rain.

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Thank you, Colin.

For upcoming workshops, events, and programming, visit NationalSporting.org.

–  Claudia Pfeiffer, the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!)

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Henry Koehler (American, b.1927), Alexander Mackay-Smith, charcoal on paper, 24 x 18 inches, NSLM Permanent Collection, Gift of the Artist, 2012, © Henry Koehler

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.

CBSNews.com: JFK Painting Finds Its Way Back to the Artist Fifty Years After Brush with Camelot

Henry Koehler in his studio with his stepson CBS correspondent, Anthony Mason, with a painting Koehler created in 1963 of President and Mrs. Kennedy sailing the Victura which recently resurfaced after fifty years. (image © CBS News | source: http://cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2013/03/01/5a336b7b-a645-11e2-a3f0-029118418759/thumbnail/620×350/09ea17d8c0842eab45e487d20c12c223/paintingjfk.jpg)

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.

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Henry Koehler (American, b. 1927), Fox Hunter’s Accoutrements, 2001, oil on canvas on panel, 10 x 13 inches, Private Collection, © Henry Koehler

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.

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Henry Koehler (American, b.1927), Jockeys Between Races, Newmarket, 2009, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches, NSLM Permanent Collection, Gift of the artist, 2012, © Henry Koehler

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.

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Cover of exhibition catalogue: Henry Koehler (American, b.1927), Sporting Gear Hanging, 2002 (detail), oil on canvas, 26 ¾ x 19 ½ inches, Private Collection, © Henry Koehler

Last week we took a closer look at some of the amazing art that is on loan to the Museum exhibition, Faithfulness to Nature: Paintings by Edward Troye. This week we will explore the Library archive exhibition currently in the Forrest E. Mars, Sr. Exhibit Hall, Edward Troye and His Biographers: The Archives of Harry Worcester Smith and Alexander Mackay-Smith. On view through March 29, 2015, most of the materials in this exhibit are from the NSLM’s permanent collections.

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Edward Troye and His Biographers: The Archives of Harry Worcester Smith and Alexander Mackay-Smith, Forrest E. Mars, Sr. Exhibit Hall

Author and John H. Daniels Fellow Martha Wolfe spent several months elbow-deep in boxes, pulling file after file from the Harry Worcester Smith and Alexander Mackay-Smith archives to research and write an essay for the extensive Coming Home Series: Edward Troye (1808-1874) catalog. Wolfe wrote, “Here in the National Sporting Library & Museum archives, in boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling, is the story of three men whose lives spanned two centuries, whose interests overlapped and whose souls were kindred: artist Edward Troye (1808-1874); the indomitable sportsman Harry Worcester Smith (1864-1945); and scholar, chronicler and author Alexander Mackay-Smith (1903-1998).” Some of the treasures that Martha unearthed include: a photographic print of Edward Troye taken by W.R. Phipps, Lexington Kentucky, which the artist presented to his long-time friend and patron Alexander Keene Richards in 1872;…

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Edward Troye, photographic print taken by W.R. Phipps, Lexington Kentucky, Harry Worcester Smith Archive, MC0041, Box 5, Harry W. Smith: Troye, Advertizements for horses Misc.

…the artist’s calling card. Two versions are known – this and another which reads “Edward Troye, Animal Painter.”;

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Edward Troye, Artist. calling card, Harry Worcester Smith Archive, MC0041, Box 5, Harry W. Smith: Troye, Advertizements for horses Misc.

…a negative print copy of pages from Troye’s obituary written in the flowing hand of A. Keene Richards on July 24, 1874. It begins, “Edward Troye the imminent Animal Painter died this morning of Pneumonia hastened by Heart disease…”;

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negative print copy of pages from Edward Troye obituary by A. Keene Richards, July 24, 1874, Harry Worcester Smith Archive, MC0041, Box 5, Harry W. Smith: Troye, Advertizements for horses Misc.

…and an envelope written on by Harry Worcester Smith, the sporting scholar who spent over three decades tracking down and championing Edward Troye’s artwork. Worcester Smith had intended to write a book on the artist, but he never published one. “Who will finish or continue my accumulation of Thought Feeling and Art?” Worcester-Smith asked.

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Harry Worcester Smith envelope, Harry Worcester Smith Archive

During her research, Wolfe unearthed a letter that pointed to Alexander Mackay-Smith as the answer to this profound question. Carvel Collins, who in 1949 produced a portfolio of reproductions of Troye’s 19th century American racehorse engravings, wrote this endorsement to Alexander Mackay-Smith, ““Mr. Harry Worcester Smith on the day before he died gave me his compliments on your interest and skill in historical research and in sport.”

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Letter to Alexander Mackay-Smith from Dr. Carvel Collins, Assistant Dean, Harvard College, April 11, 1945, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room [letter inserted in: The American Sporting Gallery: Portraits of American Horses from Spirit of the Times, 1839-1844, set of fourteen engravings with commentary by Carvel Collins]
Taking up the baton, Alexander Mackay-Smith became a noted scholar and a founder of the National Sporting Library in 1954. Almost three decades later, he spent three years researching Worcester Smith’s archive held at the NSL to complete the definitive biography and chronology, The Race Horses of America 1832 – 1872: Portraits and Other Paintings by Edward Troye, published by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1981.

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A view of the Library exhibition with Portrait of Harry Worcester Smith, 1928,  by Richard Benno Adam (German, 1873 – 1937), Gift of the Saddle & Sirloin Club, Chicago, on the left and Alexander Mackay-Smith, 1955, painted in 1999 by Wallace Wilson Nall (American, 1923 – 2003) after a painting by Jean Bowman (American, 1917 – 1994)  on the right.

Troye, Worcester Smith, and Mackay-Smith shared a passion for sport and art that lives and breathes in the Library and Museum’s Coming Home Series: Edward Troye (1808-1874) exhibitions. We invite you to be inspired as well.

– Claudia Pfeiffer, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art

P.S. Annie Johnson, the Editor of Antebellum Turf Times, came out to explore these two exhibitions in-depth in October and wrote an article incorporating her research on Edward Troye and Thoroughbred racing which has just been published in American Racehorse magazine. Read article

The two Coming Home Series exhibitions focusing on the artist Edward Troye (American, 1808-1874), Faithfulness to Nature: Paintings by Edward Troye in the Museum and Edward Troye and His Biographers: The Archives of Harry Worcester Smith and Alexander Mackay-Smith in the Library, close on March 29, 2015. During the nineteenth century when many British animal and sporting artists enjoyed popularity in the United Kingdom, there was no one other than Troye working in the United States to rise to his caliber as an American Thoroughbred portraitist in his lifetime. Despite this, his body of work was all but forgotten by the turn of the twentieth century. The exhibitions and catalog essays cover the weighty topic of Troye’s momentous, forty-year career, the rediscovery of his paintings, and his role as a naturalist painter. If you are even mildly curious, you should visit both of these in-depth exhibits.

Today we will be taking a closer look at the Museum exhibition,  Faithfulness to Nature: Paintings by Edward Troye. Forty-two works have been gathered from sixteen private and public collections that will never be organized in the same way again. Divided into three sections, the first gallery reminds the visitor of the huge impact Troye had on the racing world within the first few years of his arrival in the United States. Eleven of the fourteen works in this room were created between 1832 and 1834. In these years, Troye painted such legendary racehorses and brood mares as American Eclipse, Henry, John Singleton, and Mary Randolph.

Trifle, 1832
Trifle, 1832, oil on canvas, 21 x 24 inches, Collection of Kirk and Palmer Ragsdale

Still in his possession when he died in 1874, Trifle, 1832, is among the first paintings that Troye completed in the United States. An early experiment with the jockey up, he did not often paint figures astride after this. The painting is also one of three compositions in the exhibition that documents the practice of keeping slaves as jockeys and trainers by Southern plantation owners before the Civil War.

The second-floor gallery offers a sweeping view of some of Troye’s most significant works created between 1839 and 1872. The 84-inch tall, A Bazaar in Damascus, 1856, is a highlight of the room. It is easy to get lost in the rich colors, vibrant details, and individual animal and figurative portraits  in the highly-detailed composition.

Detail of Bazaar in Damascus, 1856
A Bazaar in Damascus, 1856 (detail), oil on canvas, 84 x 64 inches, Collection of Bethany College, Bethany, WV

The painting from Troye’s epic excursion to the Middle East has not been on view at eye-level under museum lighting in over a decade. When it returns to its home along with Syrian Ploughman, 1856, another mural-sized work on loan from Bethany College, they will both be rehung twenty feet in the air in the gigantic Academic Parlour of the campus’s Old Main building. (Read Bethany College’s post about the exhibition opening and loans at http://www.bethanywv.edu/about-bethany/news/2014-15-news-archive/bethany-paintings-edward-troye-showcased-middleburg-va-museu/.)

Faithfulness to Nature: Paintings by Edward Troye also features Waverly, 1872, the last known painting completed by Troye two years before he died. The landscape in it is much more fully defined than his  previous works. To one side of Waverly, standing in deep shadow, is a group of horses; these are likely brood mares with two of the stallion’s progeny frolicking. To the right are a stable and tree balancing the composition.

Waverly 1872
Waverly, 1872, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 inches, Collection of Lawrence and Rene Kurzius

Biographer Alexander Mackay-Smith wrote of the painting in The Race Horses of America 1832 to 1872: Portraits and Other Paintings by Edward Troye, published in 1981, “It was characteristic of the artist that only after the completion of a masterpiece was he content to put down his palette and brushes and to end his career as an artist.”

The hallway gallery punctuates the exhibition with examples of Troye’s sketches. A large painting of the winning Thoroughbred Boston (one of nine paintings generously loaned by The Jockey Club) is paired with the life study of the horse upon which it is based. There are only a handful of sketches known to still be in existence by Troye. The NSLM holds five in its permanent collection, of which Boston, 1839, is one, and the sensitive, informal charcoal study illustrated below of the aging blind Lexington, c. 1870, is another.

Lexington, c. 1870
Lexington, c. 1870, charcoal on paper, 26 x 18 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Ms. Elizabeth J. D. Jeffords, 2008

No picture can capture the true essence of these works. Several paintings and prints from the NSLM’s permanent collection are also on view in the Library exhibition, Edward Troye and His Biographers: The Archives of Harry Worcester Smith and Alexander Mackay-Smith. We will take a closer look at this installation in the Coming Home Series: Part 2 blog entry next week.

When these exhibitions close on March 29th, the delicate works on paper and archives will rest out of the light for a time to preserve them, and most of the paintings will leave the NSLM. Come out and visit us before the exhibits end. It will be worth your while to see them in person.

– Claudia Pfeiffer, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art

Please join us in congratulating NSLM Board Member Mrs. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., the owner of Demonstrative, winner of the 2014 Eclipse Award for Steeplechase Champion.

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Trainer Richard Valentine and Jacqueline Ohrstrom accept Steeplechase Champion for Demonstrative. Photo: photosbyz.com | source: slide 12 – http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/slideshows/slideshow/2014-eclipse-awards/2014-eclipse-awards

The racing world is abuzz over the announcement of the winners  at the 2014 Eclipse Awards dinner held on January 17, 2015.  Now in its 44th year, the American Thoroughbred industry’s equivalent to the Oscars was established in 1971, when the Daily Racing Form, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the National Turf Writers Association (not necessarily in that order) first got together to sponsor the accolade.  Twenty distinct categories are voted on annually to honor champion horses, trainers, and members of the media.

J.B. Faulconer was the Publicity Director at Keeneland, the horse racing facility in Kentucky, and is credited with the idea for the awards. He asked Kentucky-based sculptor Adalin Wichman (1922 – 2013), who was also an Advertising Director at Keeneland, to design a statue befitting of the new national honor, and the Eclipse Award was born. The first ones were handed out in 1972 to the 1971 winners.

Adalin Wichman with Eclipse Award photo by Jennifer Podis from Alison Wichman
Adalin Wichman with a gold-plated Eclipse Award, the finish given for Horse of the Year. The other bronzes are patinated.  photo by Jennifer Podis, image courtesy Alison Wichman, MD

The artist retained copyright, oversaw foundry production, and finished each in her studio over the years to assure the trophy’s continued quality. Still cast with the same care today, each bronze is mounted on a Kentucky-walnut base with an inscribed brass plaque. The NSLM has one of these casts with a rare brushed finish in its permanent collection, donated by the artist.

Eclipse Award
Adalin Wichman (American, 1922 – 2013), Eclipse Award, bronze on wooden base, 9 ½ x 6 inches, Gift of Adalin Wichman, 2011

Adalin Wichman, a sculptor, painter, and jewelry designer, lived to be 91 years old. She was honored for her achievements in the arts in 2011 with Kentucky’s state-wide Milner Award given by the Governor. Below is the letter Wichman wrote offering the Eclipse Award to the NSL in 2009.

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Letter written to NSLM Museum Exhibitions and Collections Chair F. Turner Reuter, Jr., Curatorial General Files, Adalin Wichman folder

Wichman modeled the horse bronze in the likeness of the undefeated British Thoroughbred and foundational sire Eclipse painted by the renowned eighteenth-century British artist George Stubbs and numerous followers.

George Stubbs (English, 1724 – 1806) Eclipse, 1770, oil on canvas, Private Collection | source: http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_234660/George-Stubbs/Eclipse,-1770

The venerable “Stubbs”… we all throw the illustrious artist’s name around as the password to sporting art, but he’s just the tip of an amazing iceberg of images enjoyed by sporting enthusiasts and art lovers. To all of you who get goose bumps at the mention of any of the other equestrian portrait greats – Alfred Munnings, Edward Troye, Benjamin Marshall, Henry Stull, John Frederick Herring, or more recently, Andre Pater, for example – know that you are in fine company. Mrs. Ohrstrom can often be found in the galleries of the NSLM, and she gets goose bumps too.

– Claudia Pfeiffer, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art

Further Reading:

Adalin Wichman, designer of the Eclipse Awards statuette, dies at 91
Daily Racing Form: http://www.drf.com/news/adalin-wichman-designer-eclipse-awards-statuette-dies-91

Lexington artist Adalin Wichman, known for her work and wit, dies at 91
Kentucky.com: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/03/12/2553870_lexington-artist-adalin-wichman.html?rh=1

J.B. Faulconer, ‘Father of the Eclipse Awards,’ Dies
BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/2119/jb-faulconer-father-of-the-eclipse-awards-dies#ixzz3Pg5WD2j7

Demonstrative wins Eclipse Award for champion steeplechaser; Palace Malice second in older male division
Aiken Standard: http://www.aikenstandard.com/article/20150118/AIK0101/150119464

Demonstrative Named Steeplechase Champion
BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/89631/demonstrative-named-steeplechase-champion

Demonstrative Crowned as Eclipse Award Champion
National Steeplechase Association: http://www.nationalsteeplechase.com/news/demonstrative-crowned-eclipse-award-champion/

Demonstrative Wins 2014 Eclipse Award
Chronicle of the Horse: http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/demonstrative-wins-2014-eclipse-award

Ohrstrom savors Demonstrative’s Eclipse Award win; Campbell not shocked by Palace Malice’s loss
Aiken Standard: http://www.aikenstandard.com/article/20150119/aik0101/150119420