There’s a lot happening right now. Currently on view is Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature and upcoming is Field Notes | Walter Matia. In between the two was a mini reveal which you may have seen on social media two weeks ago.

NSLM Facebook post, May 24, 2021

We recently received a donation of two large equine sculptures by artist Diana Reuter-Twining, Maestro and Equipoise. First, a hearty kudos to everyone involved with this. It was a very exciting, hold-your-breath few minutes as they were rolled into the gallery. Second, we are beyond delighted to have these join our permanent collection.

Though I had seen pictures of both, it did not quite prepare me for seeing them in person. Maestro depicts a horse with a leg outstretched on top of a ball and on its base is the Fibonacci spiral. As I much as I enjoy both sculptures equally, this blog will be devoted to Equipoise.

Equipoise shows a horse on one end of a balance beam and a dancer on the other. It struck me immediately. The dancer, in particular, with her bare feet, outstretched hands, and wild hair just put a smile on my face. My mind, then, started jumping all around my art history textbook. Hold on tight and follow this crazy train if you can.

Diana Reuter-Twining (American, b. 1951), Equipoise, 2019 bronze, 76 x 52 x 16 inches, Gift of the artist, 2021

Association 1: Verrocchio’s David has always fascinated me because there does not seem to be any way to distinguish between the top half of the subject’s armor and his skin. I understand that a cuirass often had extraordinary detail on it, from emphasizing musculature to military campaign highlights and mythological lineage (looking at you, Augustus), but this goes beyond that. There are visible straps but you can also see his belly button and rib cage.

It seems to be one in a way that is very similar to Reuter-Twining’s dancer and her leotard. We do not see where one stops and one begins.

Association 2:

My brain then skipped ahead to Paris at the turn of the 20th century, the dancer Loie Fuller, and a poster of her by French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901).

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901). Miss Loïe Fuller, 1893. Color lithograph on wove paper, Sheet: 15 × 10 1/4 in. (38.1 × 26 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 39.25 

It is one of the many advertisement posters he created of various dancers and singers. Though posters had been around for a while, this era of the fin de siècle is when it really develops as an art form. They were also cheap to produce, which was important as performances were often limited engagements. Their size and format were made to fit lamp poles and posts. How else does one attract the attention of the passersby?

Loie Fuller was a solo artist who was known for elaborate routines that choreographed the movement of her body and her long dresses with that of light and color. Her costumes included long skirts and sleeves that billowed as she twisted and turned.

Here is a link a video of someone performing in her style, sometimes called a “serpentine dance.” Though the beginning of the video says it is of her, it actually is not. There is no video in existence of her performing.

What made me think of this poster in particular though is the similarity between the hair of Reuter-Twining’s dancer and Fuller’s expansive costume. The hair looks like it is swept in a frenzy much like Fuller’s dress.

Equipoise (detail)

Association 2.5:

In another five seconds, my mind jumped from Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster to his depictions of circuses…

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Circus,
late 19th century

…which then took me to Association 3: George Seurat.

Georges Seurat (French. 1859-1891), Le Cirque, 1891,
oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches, Musée d’Orsay

The connection here is probably a lot more obvious. It was like my mind was whirring through a rolodex – going all the way to “V”, skipping up a bit and alighting on “T” (“not quite what I’m looking for”) and then flipped back to “S” (“ah yes, there you are.”).

With all that said though, Reuter-Twining’s sculpture is its own tour de force. Her dancer is visibly all muscle, unlike Seurat’s lithe bareback rider. Our dancer’s legs are thicker, which is testament to her training. Her bare feet make this very spontaneous for me and as someone who removes her shoes at every opportunity (including sitting at my desk writing blogs…), I appreciate another bare footed individual. The dancer’s nose is slightly upturned giving her a spritely look.

The horse was influenced by the Lipizzaner breed, which can be seen in the stalwart pose, again the opposite of Seurat. Whereas his looks weightless and ethereal, Reuter-Twining’s is solid and strong.

Equipoise (detail)

On the dancer and horse are circles traced into the patina that adds texture and a dynamism to the figures.

It also, for me, subtly reinforces the circus, as does the balance beam. But it also goes deeper than that. I like to think that the force of the dancer is what keeps her from flying off, which is technically what should happen when there is a 1,000-pound horse on the other end. Instead, she remains deftly and firmly on her side.

Make sure to stop by and see Reuter-Twining’s sculptures in the Intro Gallery. The Museum is open between 10 am and 4:30 pm. Ticketed access is still recommended but walk-ups are welcome!

Thank you for sticking with me through this art stream of consciousness (though I may have revealed too much of my inner workings). I mostly blame the allergy meds. Stay tuned for Part 2 on my more coherent discussion on Maestro.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

My feet are killing me. I’m tired. I subjected Art Handler Alex to various podcasts and audiobooks. And I’m running out of black leggings to wear. But I love it. Exhibition change-out is my favorite time of year and the past four weeks have been particularly exciting.

Artist Jamie Wyeth generously allowed us to enjoy Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration a little longer, which meant it closed a week before the March 21 closing date for Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art. In the midst of this was the arrival of artwork from the National Museum of Wildlife Art for Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature. Of over 80 works of art.

Monday, March 15

The month-long extravaganza is officially underway. Alex and I began packing the 31 Wyeth paintings (plus one trophy). For those that remember how large Connemara Four is, you can imagine how careful we were. It called for a few extra hands.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Connemara Four (1991), oil on panel, 48 x 96 inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

The deinstallation was bittersweet for a couple reasons. First, this exhibition was a wonderful celebration of the life of our local friend, Mrs. Wyeth. Over the past year, I met many lovely people who either knew her or knew of her. I heard stories of her sense of adventure and her humor, her zeal for life. Listening to these provided such poignant context to the paintings. Second, the exhibition opened pre-COVID, only a few weeks before NSLM closed for four months. I thought back to installation when five of us were crowded in a gallery without worrying about masks or social distancing yet. It is hard to believe it has only been a year, rather it seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the world. But our museum has not only survived, but thrived thanks to our loyal members, visitors, and friends. To the sound of Joe Friday and Dragnet, Alex and I dutifully packed up the exhibition and said goodbye to the Wyeths.

From left to right: Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Sable (1988), oil and gesso on panel, 30 x 40 inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection; She’s Gone to the Barn (2016), acrylic, gesso, and oil on panel, 16 x 11½ inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection; Stealing Hollies from the Irenees (2016), 23 x 29 inches, acrylic, gesso, and oil on panel, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Monday, March 21

Next on our To-Do list was to tackle Steeplechase. We dove in according to the shipping schedule, which meant that as the work from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was going to be the first to be picked up the following Monday, it was first to come off the walls. This was different from Wyeth because this exhibition had 16 private lenders, as well as several public institutions. The transportation logistics can always be hairy as it is multiple schedules we are working around. This appeals to my Virgo nature though – spreadsheets and color coding.

Painting far left: Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880-1953), Welbourne Jack with Jack Skinner up at Glenwood Park, 1937, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, Private Collection; sculpture: Emma MacDermott (Irish, b. 1957), Steeplechase, c. 1986, bronze, 28 x 46 ½ x 10 ½ inches, Private Collection

The individual lenders decide how they want to pack artwork: sometimes paintings arrive in wooden crates, other times in cardboard softpack. There are multiple layers of bubble wrap, plastic, and/or foam core. Everything is saved – how it arrives is how it is returned. Sometimes if a lender is local, they may just transport the painting in the back seat of their car, which is perfectly fine. However, we’ll pack it up safely for its return trip home. We give it the same care as if it were being returned to a place like Yale or VMFA.

Wednesday, March 25

Halfway through the week and halfway through packing, the shipment of Tucker Smith paintings from the NMWA arrived. Our receiving area was soon flooded with crates. I started laughing that hysterical laughter one does when the abstract becomes reality. I knew this was a large exhibition and I knew how many crates would be arriving but seeing it made my eyes bulge.

Also, because of all the packing and shipments, I was still technically two exhibitions behind the rest of the staff. So whilst Claudia, Valerie, and Cynthia Kurtz, our new Marketing Manager (and previous NSLM intern!), were firmly in the world of Tucker Smith, I was still knee-deep in Wyeth and Steeplechase. When Cynthia referred to The Refuge, the massive 45 ¼ x 129 ½ painting by Smith that had just arrived, I was racking my brain for a painting of the same name in one of the previous exhibitions.

We never open art upon arrival. It needs to acclimate. This was fine since we still had to finish with Steeplechase. Thank goodness for comfy sneakers. By the end of the week, Alex and I finished not only the packing of the exhibition, but an entire season of the Criminal Broads podcast.

Empty Steeplechase walls

Monday, March 29

And so the start of return shipments and local deliveries. We tend to use a few different companies because of where they can make deliveries. The interesting part of shipping logistics is to ensure that there is not a double booking for the trucks, but we can only plan so much because, just like the cable company, they provide a window of time rather than a specific one.

Always keeping myself on my toes, we had several pickups that morning, as well as a local delivery. Everyone was on the earlier side of the window which normally is perfect, but because of scheduling for the local transport, I had to pull Claudia away from her mountain of work to handle the pickup. Thankfully, it all went off without a hitch.

And now I could finally devote my attention to Tucker Smith and his beautiful oeuvre. I have never been to the West. I am the stereotypical East Coaster – there’s the west coast, the east coast, and everything else in the middle. A terrible attitude and it (rightfully) rankles my Minnesota friends and family. This exhibition, though, has me wanting to visit Wyoming right now. Alex spent nine years in his previous life as a cowboy near where Smith painted many of the works we were unpacking.

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), The Season, 2005, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, Collection of Beverly and Roe Hatlen

In between Poirot’s Finest Cases on audiobook, I enjoyed listening to Alex’s stories of being out west. In Rabbit Brush, Lupine, and Sage which features an entire foreground of sagebrush, he told me of the beautiful scent released as he rode through it. He confirmed that the expansive blue sky that goes on forever in the aptly titled Big Sky is just as wonderous as Smith depicts it. As Alex looked at The Branding, I learned more about castration than I needed to know. I also learned how to not frighten moose and that “butte” is pronounced “beau-t.”

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), The Branding, 1988, oil on canvas, Collection of Curtice and Bob McCloy

The exhibition was not even officially open yet and something I had already noticed was how evocative the paintings are. People see them and immediately launch into their own stories about muleys, rams, and bears. Claudia told us about a childhood family trip out west. A board member who happened to be at the museum told us of the moose he saw on his visits to Yellowstone. These paintings with their rich colors and unique perspectives bring those memories alive for the viewer in a way I have not experienced at the NSLM before.

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), Big Sky, 1990, 12 x 14 inches, oil on canvas, Collection of Curice and Bob McCloy

An unofficial element of the NSLM mission is the conservation and preservation of our natural landscapes and this exhibition really underlines that. It shows the importance of preserved spaces for both the land and the animals. Many of the human figures Smith includes in his landscapes show us how small we truly are, but also how big our responsibility is to be capable stewards of such magnificent places.

Friday, April 9

Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature is officially open! Be sure to see this stunning retrospective before it closes on August 22. Reserve your tickets online.


Having not ventured to the West beyond a handful of trips to Arizona, it made me want to rent an RV and soak up the landscape. Consider this my two weeks notice, boss. I’m off to ride into that big Wyoming sky.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Or, the full title, “Black Beauty: His grooms and companions. The autobiography of a horse. Translated from the original equine by Anna Sewell

Just in time for Sewell’s birthday on March 30! As mentioned in prior blog posts, I am not an equestrienne in any sense of the word. My acquaintance with horses was exactly one Girl Scout excursion circa 1995 and reading about Felicity’s love for her horse, Penny, in the American Girl series. American Girl was also the root of my love for history and set me on my path to majoring in it (History, not American Girls – if only) in undergrad – books for the win!

Felicity and her brother watching Penny with her terrible owner in Meet Felicity. Image courtesy of American Girl Wiki

And now for a Classic. I have always known of Black Beauty, the way one hears about Treasure Island or Gulliver’s Travels. It’s just one of those ubiquitous books. Due to its relatively short length and its narration by the titular character, it is often considered a children’s book. But it really isn’t, per the intentions of the author. It just worked out that way as its publication coincided with legislation that began requiring children to attend school, so it literally had a whole new audience.

First, a little about the author.

Anna Sewell
Image courtesy of Literary Ladies Guides

Sewell was born in 1820 in Great Yarmouth in England to Isaac and Mary, who instilled in their two children (brother Philip came along in 1822) a sense of moral responsibility influenced by their Quaker faith. Isaac wasn’t initially the most successful of breadwinners, and the family frequently moved. As a toddler, Sewell often wanted to feed the horses. At her uncle’s farm, she learned to ride (sidesaddle, as was the custom) and carriage drive. She and Philip would spend the days riding and exploring. She was described by her mother as having a “great deal of courage and independence of character, never burdened with any kind of fear.”

As young children Anne and Philip were tutored by their mother. Perhaps the most important lesson taught was “that everything living was part of God’s family and ‘that all cruelty or injury inflicted is displeasing to Him who made His creatures to be happy.’” As they got older, the now teenage Anna and Philip attended the local schools. One day running home during a rainstorm, she fell and injured her ankles. Though the family thought it would heal in its own time, it dramatically affected her life as she thereafter had difficulty walking.

Sewell, aged 10

Sewell was encouraged to maintain riding horses as a way to treat her injuries that were a constant source of pain and frustration. It must have also provided a freedom she felt she had lost. She seemed to have a particular connection to horses, perhaps also at the mercy of others, felt a kinship. A family friend noted that when driving, “[Anna] seemed simply to hold the reins in her hand, trusting to her voice to give all needed directions to her horse. She evidently believed in a horse having a moral nature, if we may judge by her mode of remonstrance. ‘Now thee shouldn’t walk up this hill – don’t thee see how it rains?’ ‘Now thee must go a little faster – thee would be sorry for us to be late at the station.’”

Throughout her life, Sewell, along with her mother, continued their good works. Around the age of 50, Sewell became primarily bedridden due to, what her death certificate lists, as “Chronic Hepatitis” and “Phthisis Pulmonalis,” also known as tuberculosis.

Black Beauty was written, off and on, beginning in 1871, which was (perhaps not coincidentally) when she was no longer able to ride or drive, as noted by her biographer Adrienne E. Gavin. Sewell occasionally dictated to Mary, other times, Sewell wrote herself. It was a family affair with her brother and father also serving as editors and readers.

Now, to me.

I read the annotated version by Ellen B. Wells and Anne Grimshaw, which was great for a 21st-century non-rider. It provided definitions and descriptions along the way. After I finished, I just sat there absorbing it all. There is a lot to unpack.

My first thought was that I do not know why anyone thinks this is a children’s book. It certainly has its pleasant, idyllic moments, but it has even darker moments that would have, frankly, given me nightmares as a kid. Honestly, as an adult too, I have a vivid imagination, and I am the type of reader who will continue to think about a book for days after.

Its simple message of kindness to horses was perfect. Throughout are passages that describe the proper treatment and how respect and gentleness serve horse and rider better than a rough hand, “Oh! If people knew what a comfort to horses a light is, and how it keeps a good mouth and a good temper, they surely would not chuck, and drag, and pull at the rein as they often do.”

What I found so remarkable were the descriptions. They are so detailed that I could see everything clearly from the opening line, “The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end.” The description of the bearing-rein from Black Beauty’s perspective made made me cringe, “Of course I wanted to pull my head forward and take the carriage up with a will, as we had been used to do; but no, I had to pull with my head up now, and that took all the spirit out of me, and the strain came on my back and legs.”

I was frequently wondering when the other shoe would drop. I sensed the idyllic lifestyle of Black Beauty’s first home wasn’t going to last; I just knew something was going to happen. The whole book is about the treatment of horses, and the Victorian era wasn’t known for its kindness to animals. It wasn’t the Royal Society for Continuing to be Nice to Animals that was established in 1824. Black Beauty’s decline in living and working conditions was heartbreaking. I knew each move was going to get progressively worse, but hoped there was a kind soul. When I thought it could not get any worse, Ginger happens. The mare who can barely catch a break, who gets only snippets of contentment.

I sat on my little couch with the book in my lap, wanting to run out and snuggle all the horses I saw. Of course, that would entail driving to Middleburg and then not scaring the horses, who, as we learned, can sense when someone has no idea what she or he is doing. Admittedly, I’d do more damage than good. Instead, I attempted to unsuccessfully cuddle with my cats.

Black Beauty has never been out of print, and myriad editions exist. The Library here has multiple copies, which was a little overwhelming when Mars Technical Librarian Erica Libhart laid them out in front of me.

Some of the editions in the NSLM Library

The book was first illustrated in 1894 by sporting artist John Beer. Considered the best of the illustrations are by Lucy Kemp-Dent in 1915.

Various artist friends of ours have tackled the subject, like Cecil Aldin, Lionel Edwards, and Paul Brown.

Black Beauty spawned various sequels and movies, the most recent was last year on Disney+. But its most important roles to influence and educate has continued. As Gavin noted, in 1924, one man’s animal cruelty sentence involved not only involved a year in jail, but he had to read Black Beauty three times.

Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 in November, the anniversary of its first publication, when I’ll be diving into the social issues presented within the book. If you have not read it, or it has been a while, this gives you time! Can there be spoilers after 144 years?

Sources: Gavin, Adrienne, Dark Horse: A Life of Anne Sewell. J.H. Haynes, 2004.

Sewell, Anne, et. al. The Annotated Black Beauty. J.A. Allen, 1989.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

In the fall of 2018, the NSLM received a donation of several works of art, including a small canvas comprising several lion heads in various positions, paws, even a floating eye. It is small, measuring 9 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a study by French artist Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899).

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur (1822-1899), Lion Studies, n.d.,
oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 16 1/2 inches,
Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018.

As a student, and now instructor, of art history, I was rather excited to see this. To further set the scene, I had just started at NSLM and was still getting acquainted with sporting art and artists. So here was a familiar name. It was like traveling away from home and then, miles and states away, meeting a friend randomly at a restaurant.

Recently, I read an article in Smithsonian magazine entitled The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur. This threw me off – does she need to be redeemed? It sounded as if she had fallen from grace. Not so. It was more about bringing her back out into the forefront. I was rather shocked because, to me, she is in that pantheon of well-known, top tier 19th-century artists. I thought she was already in the forefront, but according to this article, in her home country, she has been relatively forgotten.

In the event you are unfamiliar with her, please let me introduce you.

André-Alphonse-Eugène Disdéri (French, 1819-1889), Rosa Bonheur, 1861-1864, albumen print on cardboard, 3 5/16 x 2 1/16 inches. Getty Center, 84.XD.1157.2203

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur was born into an artistic family. Her father, Oscar-Raymond, was an occasional art teacher and her brother (one of three artistic siblings), Isidore, became a sculptor (One of his sculptures is in the NSLM’s collection). Like most artists, the tomboy Rosa loved to sketch from a young age. According to The Art Story, her mother, Sophie, suggested her daughter learn the alphabet by having her draw an animal whose name began with each letter. Bonheur “always credited her, and this moment in life for her enduring love and deep understanding of animals.” Her father believed in the socialist ideas of theorist Henri de Saint-Simon, which promoted, amongst many things, equality of the sexes, including in education. Since women were not generally admitted to official art schools (sketching the nude models was considered improper for women), training was often conducted with an acquaintance, family friend, or, as in Bonheur’s case, her father. She clearly had talent and he encouraged her to go to the Louvre and copy the Old Masters, as was traditional. However, as they both shared a passion for animals, he also recommended drawing from life and the local assortment of livestock and horses. This all created a solid artistic foundation for someone who would become one of the great Realist and animalier artists.

I do want to point out that even though all the above sounds very cheerful, her upbringing was far from it. Her father left his family at times to live with other Saint-Simonian members in, ironically, a utopian society. The family was quite poor and struggled to make ends meet and then her mother died when Bonheur was 11. They were so poor that Sophie was buried in a pauper’s grave.

In 1841, at the age of 19, Bonheur exhibited at the Paris Salon with two paintings: Goats and Sheep and Rabbits Nibbling Carrots. At the Salon of 1849, Bonheur showed Ploughing in the Nivernais, a commission from the state. It does not get much more Realist than this, this is one of those paintings that is a sensorial experience. You can hear the cowherders and the oxen as they trudge along, you can feel the dirt beneath your feet, and you can smell the earth and the livestock.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), Labourage nivernais (Ploughing in Nevers), 1849, oil on canvas,
52 3/4 x 102 1/4 inches, © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / DR

Perhaps her most well-known painting is The Horse Fair. This enormous (8 x 16 ½ feet) painting was completed in 1853 and was called “the world’s greatest animal picture.” It actually went on tour throughout England, seen by no less than the Queen herself. Smaller versions were created and sold, as were prints. The original went to auction in 1887 and was purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt for $53,000 (over $1.3 million today), which he then donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it still resides (Gallery 816 if you are interested). This reaction is remarkable for an animalier artist as the subject matter was not treated with the same regard as historical or portrait painting, considered the loftier genres.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Horse Fair, 1852-55, oil on canvas, 96 1/4 x 199 1/2 inches,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Cornelius Vanderbilt, 1887

Bonheur took the idea that her father gave her, to paint from life, and ran with it. She attended horse and livestock markets, animal fairs, and slaughterhouses. She wore men’s clothes to these events, as it allowed (in every sense of the word) more freedom. To do so, Bonheur had to apply for special permission from the police.

Permit allowing her to wear men’s clothing. Her doctor completed it, citing “for reason of health.” Copied from Smithsonian Magazine’s article, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020 (Claudine Doury)

At home on the outskirts of Paris, in her chateau that she purchased from the sale of her paintings, she kept a small menagerie she would use as models. This included sheep, monkeys, dogs, birds, horses, and the occasional tiger and lion, which brings us back to our small study. We do not know when or what it was created for, perhaps it was simply an exercise or maybe it was preparation for one of her many lion paintings, like The Lions at Home (1881) below?

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Lions at Home, 1881, oil on canvas, 64 x 103 inches,
Ferens Art Gallery, KINCM:2005.4763

Regardless, it is fascinating to see an artist’s process. The sketches seem to hint at what is to come: if the study is this good (I particularly like the fur on the paws), imagine what the final product will look like. It is interesting to think that the quick sketches that she probably thought little of upon completion is now something very special.

Her abilities emanate from her paintings: the shadows on the backside of a horse, the clumps of dirt, the furrowed brow of a lion – we come for the subject and stay for the Realism. Even in the sketches, the different shades of the lion manes, the curve of the mouth, the whiskers, all attest to her skill.

Lion Studies

In 1865, Bonheur became the first woman to receive the Légion d’Honneur. Twenty-nine years later, she was raised from a Chevalier to an Officier. In these later years, even though she and her art were well respected, Realism was no longer popular. Representational art is cyclical and it was, once again, falling out of fashion. Claude Monet’s revolutionary Impression: Sunrise had debuted at the Paris Salon in 1874 marking the rise of a new movement. 

On the surface, Lion Studies gives insight into an artist’s process – I see Bonheur flicking her brush over the canvas, muttering edits to herself. More broadly, though, it represents an artist reclaiming her due. Whenever a museum shows one of her works, whether a small study or a large oil painting, more of her reemerges.

Sources:

The Art Story, Rosa Bonheur

Britannica, Rosa Bonheur, Kathleen Kuiper

Smithsonian Magazine, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

I’ve been keen to try fishing for a while, especially since starting at NSLM over two years ago.

A close friend of mine, who has been diligently quarantining, asked me, another diligent quarantiner, if I would like to join her for a long weekend in Cassadaga, NY for her birthday at the end of October. I jumped at such an opportunity. Knowing we’d be together, even though we are fairly isolated anyway, we upped being diligent, and monitored our health daily for the preceding two weeks and off we went. Per state regulations, we couldn’t leave the house, which, frankly, was fine with us.

Our little Airbnb cabin was on its own island with a dock on one side and bridge to the main road on the other.

Isn’t this the sweetest?
All photos, except the one of her (of course), courtesy of Rebecca Hagen.

My friend, Rebecca, is an experienced fisher. She initially just accompanied her father when he went fishing, but now it has become a favorite hobby of hers. She has been to a variety of places, like the South Holston River near Bristol, TN and the Youghiogheny in western PA. I have been exactly one time in college (which is in the rearview mirror farther than I would like to admit) and I don’t even know if I would call it “fishing.” Rebecca knew I had been eager to try it and this was part of the lure (too early for fishing puns?), although I really would have gone anyway. Our first day there, she took a walk around the house and noticed that there were absolutely no fish. Something we noticed over the next few days – we saw zero fish. Am I setting this up to have an excuse for later? Possibly.

On Halloween, our designated Fishing Day, the weather was beautiful. Freezing, but beautiful. Freezing and windy, but beautiful. Rebecca gave me a tutorial on flies, the difference between dry flies and wet flies, what nymphs are, and when and where they should be used. 

I donned waders (completely unnecessarily) and, along with a fishing vest that would have made my father proud and some trusty boots, I was ready to go. Suitably overdressed, Rebecca started from scratch and made me practice hand and arm movements, essentially casting with the rod on dry land to get the feel of what exactly I’ve be doing. This took some time. I was a terrible pupil, who just wanted to get that line in the water! But it was helpful just to get an idea of how my arm should move and how to flick the wrist. Even though I felt I was following Rebecca’s example of wide arms and hands, I wasn’t actually doing that. Perhaps it was all the layers that made me feel like I was, but I most definitely was not.

This is the pose of a woman, who knows what she’s doing.

When she deemed me somewhat passable, she set up the rod and picked out a dry fly. The first one she chose had some spikes on it that would sit on top of the water (also please notice Rebecca’s amazing shirt). 

Shirt purchased from Orvis, for anyone interested.

Making sure I had my eyes protected and that Rebecca was safely to my left, I cast my line and…it dropped right in front of me.

One of many efforts.

I should mention that right behind us, at about 4 o’clock, was a tree taunting us with the casualties of lures past. Rebecca guided me in how to avoid it, by casting more to the side rather than straight back. Once the line was in the water, I moved it around a little to make the fly dance and then I’d cast again. Rebecca said this was right, but she could simply have been humoring me. In my enthusiasm, I cast too far back and sure enough, like so many before me, got the lure caught in the tree. There was no way to retrieve it. The branches extended over the water and climbing the tree was not an option. Rebecca made sure we were both looking away and then tugged it to break the line.

Round 2 – Rebecca had a good feeling about one lure in particular. she was excited to try it.

I let her take over with the new lure, that was a lot of pressure for me. I had just lost one, I didn’t want to lose another, especially one clearly so special. Rebecca had the slack in one hand, the rod in the other, she started making the swift arcs and…snag. The lucky lure didn’t even make it in the water. She was devastated.

I decided to give it one more go. My hands were red and freezing (as seen in the picture) and, as much as I was enjoying myself, the thought of a hot chocolate waiting for me was too much of a siren’s song. I did a lovely rookie cast, out it went, we waited for a few minutes, and then there was a tug! Both Rebecca and I got excited as she instructed to me to pull the line, pull some more, and WHAM! Coming quickly towards me was something green and shiny.

See below for my catch.

That’s right. I caught seaweed. But you know what, it was a personal trial, and I was proud of my morning’s accomplishments. It is now hanging above my mantle.

But I had Been Fishing! And I really enjoyed it! Something I always try to do when speaking with NSLM visitors, whether it is with first-time guests or with our board members, is find a way to make a connection. Now having this shared experience, despite my clumsiness, is a way to do just that.

Truthfully though, it was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to try it again. Maybe in less chilly temperatures so my fingers work a little better and I can tolerate the weather more. Thank you, Rebecca, for being a wonderful instructor and somehow putting up with my ineptness. We’re already making tentative plans for something next summer (vaccines willing). I just hope it’s to a place I can wear my waders!

BFFs – Best Fishers Forever

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

For me, this is the “Slow” Period. My colleagues and I always put air quotes around that because there really is no “Slow” Period for us. There’s the Really, Really Busy Period and Slightly Less Busy Period. With exhibitions now open, I’m able to catch up on projects, including the annual location inventory. Literally just ensuring things are where they’re supposed to be, according to our records (a more in-depth comprehensive inventory is completed every two years).

This gives me time in storage, where I crank up the tunes and just plug away at verifying the Register. As a Collections Manager (and Virgo), I find this very therapeutic and satisfying. It aligns with the mantra of my father (and fellow Virgo), a place for everything and everything in its place.

As I was doing inventory, and with Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art on the brain, the below two prints caught my eye: A Country Horse Race after artist William Mason (British, 1725—1797). They aren’t steeplechase scenes. Rather, they depict a flat race.

In the first, chaos ensues as two jockeys make their way to the starting line. As explained in Thrill of the ‘Chace, steeplechase and flat races were attended across classes. Many sat in the grandstands whilst others on horseback or in carriages lined the rail or positioned themselves along the course.

(after) William Mason (English, 1724-1797) A Country Race Course with Horses Preparing to Start, 1786 aquatint, 16 1/2 x 25 inches
National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

As an introvert, I get anxiety just looking at these. There are people literally everywhere getting into all manner of trouble. There is so much to see and something new each time you look at it, it reminds me of a Pieter Brueghel the Elder painting, or a Mel Brooks movie.

In the right foreground, the jockey in blue vertical stripes looks like he’s being harassed but look closer and look towards the hands. Money is being exchanged between the two men. The man on the right doesn’t even look like a real person, he looks more like a gargoyle, almost personifying his wickedness. The horse, who seems to look at us with pleading eyes, is about to be given wine.[1] Looks like someone is about to throw a race.

A Country Horse Race, Preparing to Start (detail)

The left foreground shows a woman in a post-chaise carriage, but no one seems to care that she is of the upper class because they’ve commandeered her accommodations for themselves. A sailor, in wonderfully blue pants, catches a ride as the man above him has thrown his leg over a brazen woman’s shoulder, which seems like one of many accidents getting ready to happen.

A Country Horse Race, Preparing to Start (detail)

The center right shows another carriage with a man hanging out the window and two figures on top getting into an altercation. It says something that it’s hard to tell if it’s playful or not.

A Country Race Course, Preparing to Start (detail)

Figures crowd the middle, the grandstands, and the rail giving me heart palpitations. I find the three figures in the announcer’s box particularly comical. Facing different directions, observing this mess of an event from the relative safety of their perch, it’s as if they just don’t know what to do. The man with the horn (and furrowed brow), trying to start the race, and with it, perhaps, bring some semblance of order. Sorry, sir, that ship has sailed.

A Country Race Course, Horses Preparing to Start (detail)

The atmospheric perspective provides a sense of depth, emphasizing the extent of the countryside, and in the back right, we see a church steeple. A study of this print is currently in the collection of The British Museum. Click here to see it. When you’re there, click on Related Objects to see other works of art by Mason, including another race scene.

The second print shows the course as the jockeys race towards the finish line on a flat dirt track. The grandstands can be seen in the background. At this point, my heart rate has only increased, and my palms are sweaty. Crowds of figures ride along, pacing the action, as others watch on the sidelines, cheering them on. 

(after) William Mason (English, 1724-1797) A Country Race Course with Horses Running, 1786 aquatint, 16 1/2 x 25 inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

In the lower right-hand corner, a man and woman, and basket of pies, have been knocked over. How did they not hear thundering hooves behind them? To be fair, it seems completely possible the riders went off course. Regardless, this has set off a chain reaction, scaring the dog and boy, who startle the horses. We see a different type of carriage in the foreground, a high phaeton. In the middle, a couple are sharing a horse. Next to them on the left is a woman sitting sidesaddle.

A Country Horse Race with Horses Running (detail)

The “rocking horse pose” of the galloping horses is typical of the time, thanks to prolific British sporting artist George Stubbs (British, 1724—1806), who popularized the erroneous portrayal. This pose would endure for at least another century until the birth of photography and Eadweard Muybridge’s famous stop-motion photographs.

A Country Horse Race, Horses Running (detail)

An interesting question I posed to our George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer is whether these figures on horseback directly behind the jockeys are spectators trying to keep up or amateur gentlemen riders. She replied that they were probably both, and likely foxhunters, as well.

What these two prints show best are the crowds. The range of classes, as exemplified by the different modes of transportation and attire, are out to enjoy (or “enjoy”) the day of sport and socializing. But as is typical of satire, it’s been turned into a caricature. Or has it? Satire is a mirror that shows us for who we are, maybe it’s not that off base?

I’ve about had my fill of A Country Horse Race. But if anyone is interested in seeing them, they are currently hanging in the Founders’ Room. Make sure to call the Library first to arrange a time to see them. If you are interested in a history of jump racing, click here for a link to the virtual exhibition of Thrill of the ‘Chace

[1] https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_2011-7084-51

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

As someone who, prior to 2012, had very limited knowledge of sporting art and artists, culture, etc., I had absolutely no idea who Mr. Jorrocks was. In March 2020, right before the pandemic stopped the world, we received a generous bequest from Mrs. Katrina Becker, a faithful friend of the museum for many years. Included in this gift was a portrait of a man with a cheery expression on his face. He made me laugh and I asked our George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer, “who is THAT?!” She enlightened me that it was, in fact, the illustrious Mr. Jorrocks, a popular fictional character from 19th-century England.

Created by Robert Smith Surtees in the early 1830s, Mr. Jorrocks was featured in serials in the New Sporting Magazine and then in 1838, he was promoted to book form, beginning with Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities; or, The Hunting, Shooting, Racing, Driving, Sailing, Eating, Eccentric and Extravagant Exploits of That Renowned Sporting Citizen, Mr. John Jorrocks, of St. Botolph Lane and Great Coram Street. Quite the teaser.

The titular character, Mr. Jorrocks, is a grocer from the city, with a sharp Cockney accent, who enjoys the sporting life. Depictions of him often show a corpulent man with a red face, generally (but not always, as seen below) in his scarlet hunt coat. He appeared in several books and was illustrated by such well-known sporting artists as Cecil Aldin (English, 1870–1935) and Henry Thomas Alken (English, 1785–1851).

R.S. Surtees’ Jorrocks’s Jaunts and Jollities, with illustrations by
Henry Alken; Longmans, Green & Co.,
Edward Arnold & Co., 1924, National Sporting Library & Museum

R.S. Surtees’ Jorrocks on ‘Unting, with illustrations by Cecil Aldin, E.P. Dutton, NY, 1909,
National Sporting Library & Museum

The writing is wonderfully colorful and descriptive. Listen to this: “He has lost his wig, his hat hangs to his back, and one side of his person and face is completely japanned with black odoriferous mixture. “My vig!” exclaims he, spitting and spluttering, “but that’s the nastiest hole I ever was in—Fleet Ditch is lavender-water compared to it! Hooi yonder!” hailing a lad, “Catch my ‘oss, boouy!” Tom Hills has him; and Jorrocks, pocketing his wig, remounts, rams his spurs into the nag, and again tackles with the pack, which had come to a momentary check on the Eden Bridge road.”

Isn’t this a beautiful cover? R.S. Surtee, Mr. Jorrocks’s Thoughts on Hunting and Other Matters, William Blackwood & Sons, Ltd. Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1925, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels Collection

Surtees has been compared to Charles Dickens for his social critique (Surtees and Dickens actually used the same illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne. Browne, known as “Phiz,” illustrated Hawbuck Grange for Surtees and several Dickens’ novels including Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield). Encyclopedia Britannica describes Surtees as “a mordant satirist. The snobbery, envy, greed, and ignorance that consume many of his characters are set down without geniality. His portrayal of provincial England just leaving the coaching for the railway era exposes its boredom, ill manners, discomfort, and coarse food, and its matter-of-factness makes admirable social history. Yet the descriptions of fast runs with hounds over open country leave the most lasting impression.” I’ve only read Jaunts and Jollities, so please do correct me if I’m wrong: but it seems like an interesting viewpoint – at times we seem to laugh along with Mr. Jorrocks and others, laughing at him.

The small painting of our favorite grocer within the NSLM collection is by artist and sportsman Raoul H. Millais (English, 1901–1999). Millais undertook commissions by several familiar names, such as King George VI and Winston Churchill. Classmates with John Skeaping (English, 1901–1980) and friends with Alfred Munnings (English, 1878-1959), he, perhaps not surprisingly, disapproved of Modernist art, calling it “the Picasso lark.” Our charming piece shows Mr. Jorrocks standing in front of his horse, which is almost as big as he is, with a jolly smile and holding a pint. He is wearing his customary scarlet coat and hunt cap as the hounds mill about behind him. They take up the entire canvas. Mr. Jorrocks looks directly as us, as if he is inviting us to join him.

Raoul H. Millais, Mr. Jorrocks, 20th c., oil on canvas,
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Katrina Hickox Becker, 2020.

Does “Millais” ring other bells? Raoul Millais is the grandson of Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais (English, 1829–1896). He produced the famous painting of Ophelia (1851–52) and one of my favorites, Christ in the House of his Parents (1849–50). The details in that are extraordinary, and honestly, I could discuss the symbolism for hours (maybe another time).  

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Ophelia, 1851-52, oil on canvas, 30 x 44 inches, Tate Britain, London
Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01506
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop), oil on canvas, 1849-50, 34 x 55 inches. Tate Britain, London

In the town of Croydon, south of London, is a life-size sculpture of the famed literary foxhunter. Artist John Mills (English, b. 1933) was commissioned to create a sculpture for a Waites Construction site and, whilst discussing possibilities with the patron, the latter expressed his affinity for the fictional character. It was decided that a statue depicting a specific scene of Mr. Jorrocks would be erected: the “Surrey subscription hounds gathering for their hunt at Croydon and the chaotic ride that John Jorrocks made from Covent Garden to join the hunt.” We see a very animated Mr. Jorrocks on horseback, barely holding on, crashing through a real hedge.



Our painting will make an appearance soon. In the meantime, the Library has several of Mr. Jorrocks’ adventures in its holdings. Feel free to reach out to read them for yourself!

Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Smith-Surtees#ref226264

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hablot-Knight-Browne

Footprints in London: http://footprintsoflondon.com/2015/07/what-is-this-statue-of-a-huntsman-doing-in-croydon/

Isle of Dogs Life: https://isleofdogslife.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/jorrocks-and-the-isle-of-doggians-1835/

Raoul Millais obituary in the Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-raoul-millais-1128046.html


Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

If I were to call you a cartophile or cartophilist, it would mean you collect what?

  1. Maps
  2. Sugar packets
  3. Cigarette cards

The answer is C, although there is a name for those who collect sugar packets and that is sucrologist.

Recently added to the NSLM archives is a donation by Merri Ferrell of 73 vintage cigarette cards featuring racehorses, jockeys, and owners. Thirty-five Wills’s Cigarettes letterpress cards and 38 small photographic reproductions from King’s Cigarettes (“The Larger Cigarettes”!). Both sets are representative of their time and place.

We’re spoiled when it comes to “freebies” in our packaging, whether it’s a color-changing spoon in a cereal box or a ring in a box of Cracker Jack (“That’s nice to know…it gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing.”). This kind of giveaway (which, technically, you have paid for) establishes a loyalty between customer and company, “collect all five!” they tell us, encouraging us to keep coming back for more. It was this mindset that helped sustain the cigarette card trend for decades in the early-to-mid 20th century.

Where did it begin, though? In the late 19th century, a package of cigarettes could easily be crinkled and damaged. To solve this inconvenience, blank cards were inserted into the packs to help keep the shape thus salvaging the contents. A keen observer noted that it would be beneficial for all to include an advertisement on the card. From there, and as technology improved, it evolved from simple logos to images. Eventually, it would get more elaborate to include accompanying information on the back (or verso) of the card.

Wills’s Cigarette cards: Shalfleet on left and Scottish Union on right, both 1938. The back was full of great information. Gift of Merri Farrell, 2020

The major cigarette distributors created limited series focusing on a specific theme, and the range of themes was extensive, from flowers and musical instruments to royal families and branches of the military. Particularly interesting topics I came across included Strange Feminine Hairstyles and Animals in Fancy Costumes. If anyone has a picture of those, please pass it along.

The various series could have as few as six cards or as many as fifty. The buyer, or perhaps even other members of the buyer’s family, would commit to completing the entire set, forcing him or her to continue to purchase the product. He or she is then “rewarded” with a new card or, disappointingly, a duplicate, in which case, another pack needs to be bought.

Cigarette cards were so popular, people were not above breaking the law in order to get their hands on them. As one Scottish newspaper reported in 1923, six boys landed in court when they were caught breaking into shops via the skylight to steal the cards (but thoughtfully left the cigarettes).

As Ben Johnson wrote on the Historic UK website, in the early 20th century, “cigarette cards had established an almost fanatical following with thousands of different sets being issues by more than 300 cigarette manufacturers, all competing with each other to sell their products and establish brand loyalty.”[1]

World War I required the use of paper materials, which caused a temporary end to the fad. However, the interwar years proved to be the heyday of cigarette cards, Johnson referred to it as “the Golden Age of card collecting.” With the onset of World War II, production again came to a halt but this time, there was no resurgence. After the war, the major companies agreed to no longer include the popular token. Though this was the death of the cigarette card proper, there was an upswing in trading cards that were packaged with household goods. These were similar in nature to their predecessors, featuring athletes, but also included the futuristic subjects of the 1950s and 60s, like Out in Space.

From 1968, currently for sale on a UK Collectible website[2]

The cigarette cards now in the NSLM archives are a wonderful snapshot of the UK in the early 20th century. This series of Wills’s Cigarette cards shows steeplechase horses and jockeys from 1938.

When Mars Technical Librarian Erica Libhart first opened the package to show them to me, the first card greeting me was this one:

Battleship is near and dear to my heart having been a previous employee of James Madison’s Montpelier. Home of Marion duPont Scott and the Montpelier Hunt Races. I would recognize those baby blue and pink silks anywhere. The verso includes the name of the jockey “B. Hobbs” and a paragraph about their historic win at the Grand National. Battleship was the first American winner at the in 1938.

[Quick plug: see Battleship’s portrait with stallion manager Edward Washington in Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art, opening September 9.]

Other notables in this set include Kellsboro Jack with D. Morgan up, an action shot of Portobello with P. Beasley up, and Bookseller with G. Richards up.

The second set is from King’s Cigarettes and are small pack-sized photographs. They include photos of known sporting enthusiasts, like King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England, and the Aga Khan.

Being photographs, these are able to show snapshots of racing scenes, like this one of Beachway in the foreground.

If you’d like to see these cards yourself, no need to break in any skylights. We’d rather you call the Library to make an appointment.


A variety of sources assisted with this article, as I am no cartophile. For more information on the history of cigarette card collecting, please visit the below site at Historic UK: https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Cigarette-Cards-Cartophily/#:~:text=by%20Ben%20Johnson,cards%20is%20known%20as%20Cartophily.

The book A History of Cigarette and Trade Cards by John Broom (2018) was immensely helpful.

[1] https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Cigarette-Cards-Cartophily/#:~:text=by%20Ben%20Johnson,cards%20is%20known%20as%20Cartophily.

[2] https://www.get-collectables.co.uk/collectable-cigarette-cards-set-science-zeppelin-space-rockets-flying-ship-5727-p.asp


Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

As the mission of the NSLM states, we are committed to “preserve, promote, and share the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports.” Two new temporary exhibitions cover all three of these areas.

The National Sporting Library & Museum reopened in limited scope on Friday, July 17. Greeting visitors in Gallery 1 is In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine featuring two new acquisitions: a pair of bronzes by American sculptor Herbert Haseltine (1877-1962), Percheron Stallion: Rhum and Percheron Messaline: Mare and Foal. They are part of the British Champion Animals series made up of 19 sculptures of prizewinning livestock including cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses created by Haseltine beginning in 1920.

In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine, on view until August 23, 2020.

Though several quarter-scale size sculptures were produced (one of which is also in the exhibit, Polo Pony: Perfection), it is believed that Haseltine produced only one complete third-scale set. It was purchased by Marshall Field in 1933 for Chicago’s Field Museum and then purchased by Paul Mellon in 1986, who donated them to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The current exhibition, open only until August 23, places the Percherons within the context of other Haseltine sculptures in the NSLM’s permanent collection. The earliest sculptures on display are a pair of Portuguese Rejoneadores, horse-riding bullfighters. From there, Haseltine’s evolution as an artist can be followed through the room – the influence of Egyptian art and his experimentation with colors, sizes, and technique.

Portuguese Rejoneadores, a pair modeled 1921, gilded bronze, 12 3/4 x 11 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018.

In 1913, Haseltine began his quest to create his version of the quintessential Thoroughbred, inspired by the many horses that impressed him. Over the span of three decades, he continued to fine tune this composite concept, like an equine Dr. Frankenstein. One of those models is in this exhibition entitled The Thoroughbred and dated 1928. Finally, in 1949, he was satisfied with the result. That version, aptly named The Perfect Thoroughbred, sits next to 1928 model. See if you can spot some of the changes!

(left) The Thoroughbred, 1928, bronze on marble, 10 x 13 1/4 x 4 inches, on loan from a Private Collection; (right) The Thoroughbred Horse: The Perfect Thoroughbred, 1949, bronze, 13 x 14 x 5 5/16 inches, Gift of Edward H. Tuck, 2001

The second exhibition currently on view focuses on angling and a glimpse of field sports. Last fall, artist Dale Weiler and his wife, conservationist Loti Wood, generously donated one of his sculptures, as well as a watercolor by his father Milton Weiler (American, 1910-1974). The subject of both the watercolor, Matapedia Magic, and the sculpture, In Your Dreams, is fishing. These serve as a pleasant introduction for the next gallery, which feature paintings by Frank Weston Benson (American, 1862-1951) and Ogden Minton Pleissner (American, 1905-1983).

(left) Milton C. Weiler, Matapedia Magic, 1968 watercolor, 30 x 37 inches, Gift of Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, 2019; (right) Dale Weiler, In Your Dreams, cast 2009 bronze, 11 x 21 x 20 inches, Gift of Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, 2019

Within this gallery are five paintings thoughtfully donated by two different collectors, a private collector and Mrs. Frederic C. Hamilton. Made up of both oil on canvas and watercolors, the mediums add to the tone of the scenes. The thicker application of oils on Pleissner’s Heavy Water, St. John contribute further build-up to the moment of anticipation. If the brushstrokes had been lighter or looser, it could completely change the painting’s emotional charge. Likewise, the serene colors in Benson’s watercolor Lower Camp Pool provide a peaceful, almost lazy, mood. Amongst the angling artworks is a wingshooting scene, a watercolor by Benson in beautiful calming shades of blue.

From left to right: Ogden Minton Pleissner, Heavy Water, St. John, 20th century watercolor, 19 x 30 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Ogden Minton Pleissner, Fisherman on the George Pool, 20th century watercolor on paper, 18 x 28 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Ogden Minton Pleissner, The Bridge Pool, Ballynahinch, 20th century oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Frank W. Benson, Lower Camp Pool, 1928 oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; and Frank W. Benson, Setting Out, 1926 watercolor on paper, 18 3/4 x 28 3/4 inches, Gift of Mrs. Frederic C. Hamilton, 2020

Along with the Weiler artworks, these paintings also highlight a theme of conservation. They were all (except for the sculpture) created during the mid-20th century when there seemed to be a nostalgia for the countryside and a yearning for nature. These paintings remind us to absorb what Mother Earth has to give us: to appreciate her abundance, yet leave no trace that we’ve visited.

In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine is only on view until the end of summer so be sure to see this unique exhibition of ten (!!!!) Haseltine sculptures all in one place. To purchase tickets and view our new safety requirements, please visit our website (click here).

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

As promised from last week’s Instagram teaser, I’d like to highlight this wonderful collage of Wilhelmine Kirby. My predecessor, Curator of Permanent Collections Nicole Stribling, unearthed this in a Library storage room and decided to hang it in her office, which, after she left, is now my office.

It’s not a huge office. In fact, it’s an old storage room that Nicole converted into office space when she started at the NSLM in 2013. I’ve made it my own but have retained much of the decoration Nicole acquired, including the collage. I can’t get to my desk without walking by it, so I’ve literally passed it thousands of times. Each time, I glance at it and wonder, who was Wilhelmine Kirby?

Wilhelmine Kirby collage, National Sporting Library & Museum

I was able to glean some information from that reliable source: the internet. She was born in 1914 to parents Wilhelmine Stewart Dunn-Claflin and Gustavus T. Kirby and attended Miss Chapin’s School in New York City and Fermata School in Aiken, SC. The family lived at Tanrackin Farm in Bedford Hills, NY. (A quick note: I generally refer to people by their last names in blog posts, but I really love the name Wilhelmine, so even though I will refer to her very casually, it is with the upmost respect.)

The New York Times turned up a few articles in their archives, some regaling society parties that Wilhelmine attended. Also making an appearance at one of these parties was Primrose Whitfield, a portrait of whom was recently included in NSLM’s Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition (proving that it really is a small world). But also discovered were a few articles that highlight the two milestones in a young affluent woman’s life in the early 20th century: her society debut and her wedding announcement (after the fact, interestingly!). Wilhelmine’s official “coming out” as a debutante was held on December 20, 1931. The Parisian-themed fête included costumed waiters, a midnight dinner with dancing until 2 am, accompanied by the Blue Devil musicians, who were dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by the French infantry of the same name. Her marriage on April 7, 1942 to Thomas Waller was a very low-key affair with no bridal attendants and no reception as her mother had recently passed away. Wilhelmine’s associations were listed and included such illustrious groups as the Daughters of the Cincinnati, the Colonial Dames of America, and the Colony Club of New York.

The New York Times, April 7, 1942

Sidenote: to share another Times article, something I found interesting, but very unrelated, was that in 1979, Wilhelmine recognized the name (though not the photograph) of a man suspected of murder.

The New York Times, June 2, 1979

Back on track: Further articles, though, attest to her skill as a horsewoman. Several mention ribbons and awards she won at various shows and competitions, like “Miss Kirby’s Gelding Also Takes Hunter Honors in Rockwood Hall Event.” In an October 2, 1937 article announcing, “Awards Made at Horse Show,” Wilhelmine’s name comes up no less than four times.

The New York Times, October 2, 1937

The articles in the collage provide better headlines: “It’s a Perfect Jump! Miss Kirby Clears Fence at Piping Rock Horse Show.”

Unknown newspaper and date, Wilhelmine Kirby collage, National Sporting Library & Museum

Perhaps my favorite description is “the most accomplished equestrienne in metropolitan social circles at Aiken, S.C., current capital of the American horse-loving world.” That sums it up nicely, doesn’t it?

Unknown newspaper and date, Wilhelmine Kirby collage, National Sporting Library & Museum

Regarding the collage itself, it’s still unknown who made it or how it ended up at the NSLM. We don’t even know when this was created.

There aren’t many dates on the collage and the few that are included exhibit quite a range. The earliest date provided is from a National Horse Show Association Exhibitor badge in 1933 with Wilhelmine’s name neatly written on the line. The latest date is a 1951 National Horse Show Association program that lists her father “Gustavus T. Kirby” as the Head Timing Judge.

In an effort to establish more firm dates, I’ve attempted to marry the online articles with the collage cut-outs. I’ve been able to match exactly one (possibly?): a Camden Horse Show article from March 12, 1938 announcing the blue ribbons her chestnut, Royal Reveler, received.

Stay tuned because this will clearly be an on-going endeavor. It represents this woman’s life and shows what was important to the creator of this collage. I’d like to point out that there aren’t any of Wilhelmine’s dance cards here, but the telegram congratulating her on her winning horse is.

The New York Times did provide one last announcement for Wilhelmine and that, of course, was her obituary. She passed away at Tanrackin Farm at the age of 90 on April 7, 2004, her 62nd wedding anniversary. Her husband had predeceased her in 1990. She appears to have led a full life being involved with her church, as well as president of the Bedford Garden Club and the Garden Club of America.

What a beautiful woman! Wilhelmine Stewart Kirby Waller, from Find A Grave.com, added by Laura J. Stewart

The collage hangs behind me and stares at my back all day. The perspective must be an interesting one. Wilhelmine watches me as I conduct research and go down Herring print rabbit holes or get excited when a shipping estimate comes in under budget. She, in all her incarnations, watches as I constantly trip over my trash can or peruse my files. Goodness knows what she thinks when I start talking to myself. But she has kept me company these last few years and I’m happy she’s here.

If you are familiar with Wilhelmine Kirby or her family, I’d like to hear from you. My email is lkraut@nationalsporting.org.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org