This coming Saturday is a big day in the horse racing world! You don’t need us to tell you that May 6 is the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The Virginia Gold Cup is also this Saturday, just down the road from us at Great Meadow in The Plains.

There are so many amazing horses, talented people, spectacular stories, and fun facts associated with both of these big events – we could never share them all. Here are just a few stories about some of the four-legged stars connected with the collections here at the NSLM.

Sea Hero
This long-shot bay colt won the Derby in 1993. Today, Sea Hero is the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner and is enjoying a life of retirement standing at stud in Turkey.

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Tessa Pullan (English, b. 1953), Sea Hero, 1995, bronze, on stone base, 88 x 29 ½ x 96 inches, including base, Bequest of Paul Mellon, 1999, Acquired 2014 [(c) Tessa Pullan]
Determine
One of the very few grey horses to win the Derby (only eight have ever done so), Determine won in 1954 – the same year the National Sporting Library was founded.

Man O’War
One of the most famous names in American horse racing never actually ran in the Kentucky Derby, but his progeny went on to win quite a few. The chestnut stallion’s offspring included 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral, and he is found in the bloodlines of most top thoroughbreds, all the way up to American Pharaoh (2015) and Nyquist (2016). Another son was steeplechaser Battleship, the first American horse to win the English Grand National Steeplechase in 1938.

Marilyn Newmark (American, 1928-2013), Man O’War, 1977, bronze, 10 ½ x 14 ¾ x 3 ½ inches, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2016.  Newmark, who is known primarily for her equestrian sculpture, created this posthumous portrait after referencing the many photographs documenting the champion thoroughbred.

Gallant Fox
Gallant Fox was the second horse to ever win the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont races (1930), and the first to be referred to as a “Triple Crown” winner by the press. Gallant Fox: A Memoir, written in 1931 by the horse’s owner, William Woodward, Sr., is one of the scarcest books ever printed by the Derrydale Press. The copy in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room here at the NSLM is numbered one of fifty (but the whereabouts of only five copies are currently recorded).

The Celebrated Horse Lexington, by Boston, out of Alice Carneal, and Churchill Downs, Derby Day, c. 1946, Published by Currier & Ives, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

Lexington
Lexington never ran in the Derby either. In fact, he died in 1875, the first year the Kentucky Derby was run. But Lexington was the leading sire in America for decades. This print in the NSLM collection features a portrait of Lexington after Louis Maurer (German/American, 1832-1932). The portrait is surrounded by images of the first 71 Derby winners – from Aristides (1875), up through Hoop Jr. (1945).

Secretariat
You can see a portrait of the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, along with Derby winners Smarty Jones (2004), Barbaro (2006), and many other gorgeous thoroughbreds in our newest exhibition Andre Pater: In a Sporting Light.

Andre Pater (Polish/American, b. 1953), Secretariat, 2004, pastel on board, 20 x 24 inches, Private Collection [(c) Andre Pater]

Happy Race Day!

In 1933, a stunning new art exhibition opened at The Field Museum in Chicago. Brought together by none other than Marshall Field, the exhibition was an exclusive selection of 19 sculptures by Herbert Haseltine from his series British Champion Animals.

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“Portrait of Herbert Haseltine by Sir William Orpen, R. A.” frontispiece of Herbert Haseltine: An Exhibition of Sculpture of British Champion Animals, 1933. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Haseltine (1877-1962) was the son of a painter, and was born in Rome (then in the independent state of Lazio). He reputedly took an interest in horses at 12 years old when Buffalo Bill‘s “Wild West” show visited Italy to perform. Haseltine studied in various parts of Europe before settling in Paris (where he lived a great deal of his life).

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Herbert Haseltine (American, 1877 – 1962) Polo Pony: Perfection, 1930 bronze, 10 x 12 ½ x 4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars. A selection of Haseltine’s series, British Champion Animals was exhibited at the Field Museum in 1933. Haseltine sent a copy of the exhibition catalog to artist Paul Brown.

The 1933 exhibition presented an opportunity for American artist Paul Brown to reach out to Haseltine. Because of careful retention of the paper record, a view of the relationship between both artists is in the NSLM collection.

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Brown forwarded Haseltine a book of his artwork, and Haseltine returned the favor. The exhibition catalog for British Champion Animals is inscribed “To Paul Brown from his admirer, Herbert Haseltine.” National Sporting Library & Museum.

Brown (1893-1958) was a hugely popular equestrian artist in his own right. He took advantage of Haseltine’s visit to the United States to forward a book featuring his artwork, and received back an exhibition catalog for British Champion Animals, and a letter. The letter shows that Haseltine was eager to “talk shop.”

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“I enjoyed looking at the horses. They are beautifully drawn and terribly alive.”
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“There is also a certain sameness about the mens [sic] faces.”
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“But you have a wonderful foundation for sculpture or painting. I saw your portrait of a horse of Scribners — a little too much detail — if you don’t mind my saying so. Also some of the horses’ ears a little rabbityfied at the points.”

Haseltine can’t keep himself from technical critique, but he tries to lighten the mood, too.

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“Please forgive all this HOT AIR.”

Below is a full transcription:

19th February, 1933

Dear Paul Brown,

Thank you a thousand times for the book – I enjoyed looking at the horses. They are beautifully drawn and terribly alive. Do you mind if I say something?

In the grouping – I would think of the composition in such a way that you couldn’t take anything out of it – without it’s being ruined. If it isn’t ruined, well it would be just as well without it. It all ought to hang together and make one. There is also a certain sameness about the mens faces.

But you have a wonderful foundation for sculpture or painting. I saw your portrait of a horse of Scribners — a little too much detail — if you don’t mind my saying so. Also some of the horses’ ears a little rabbityfied at the points. Look at a horse’s ears, especially a well bred one and you will see what I mean.

Please forgive all this HOT AIR. I hope we shall meet soon again.

Yours,

Herbert Haseltine

We don’t know what Brown thought about the letter, but he prized it enough to keep it, and the exhibition catalog. Both were donated to NSLM by Brown’s daughter, Nancy Brown Searles in 2011 and are now part of our manuscripts collection.

Long after the Field Museum exhibition, three smaller casts of Haseltine’s sculptures are in the permanent collection at NSLM. They’re often on view in the Permanent Collection exhibition, so plan your visit to see them in person soon!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

I’ve been exploring the Library’s photograph collection over the past few weeks, and there’s a wealth of material in that collection, and I found the following photo there:

"Presentation to HSF, Timonium Fair, 1948" Photograph Collection, National Sporting Library & Museum
“Presentation to HSF, Timonium Fair, 1948” Photograph Collection, National Sporting Library & Museum

The caption struck me as mysterious, but what intrigued me most was the ceramic sculpture. It looked awfully familiar. It’s the very same one that’s currently in our Executive Director’s office.

Ceramic Draft Horse Sculpture, Inscribed "H. S. Finney From Maryland Draft Horse Breeders Association"
Percheron, Edward Marshall Boehm, 1948. Inscription: “H. S. Finney From Maryland Draft Horse Breeders Association”

I needed some answers, and fortunately for me, NSLM Summer Intern Nicole Corbin did a wonderful job researching the sculpture. It was sculpted by Edward Marshall Boehm, a native of Maryland, who is best known for his sculptures of birds. His work can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the White House, as well as being in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II. The only other known Pecheron Work Horse sculpture by Boehm is in the collection at the Met.

Percheron Stallion, Edward Marshall Boehm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Percheron Stallion, Edward Marshall Boehm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Some of you may have already recognized Humphrey S. Finney (1903-1984) in the photograph. His glasses, bow tie and hair parted in the middle gave him a distinctive look! He was best known in the horse world as president, then chairman of Fasig-Tipton, the prominent horse auctioning firm. Something a little less well-known was his long relationship with draft horses.

In recognition for his annually sponsoring the draft horse classes at the Maryland State Fair, the Maryland Draft Horse Breeders Association presented Finney with this ceramic sculpture at the 1948 fair at the Timonium Fairgrounds. The sculpture was donated to the National Sporting Library by Finney’s daughter, Marge Dance, in 1995.

Cover art from "The Thirty-Eight Annual Testimonial Dinner of the Thoroughbred Club of America in Honor of Mr. Humphrey S. Finney" 1969.
Cover art from “The Thirty-Eight Annual Testimonial Dinner of the Thoroughbred Club of America in Honor of Mr. Humphrey S. Finney” 1969.

Finney was born in England and came to the United States at 21 to work with horses. His first job was in Michigan, exhibiting draft horses. He moved on to Ohio to work conditioning hunters and polo ponies before breaking into the Thoroughbred industry. Finney was elected to the board of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association in the 1930s, and at the Association’s suggestion, he founded and edited The Maryland Horse magazine in 1936. His autobiography, Fair Exchange: Recollections of a Life With Horses (1974)is in the Library Collections and can be accessed in the Library’s Main Reading Room at NSLM.

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Twenty-two years ago, longshot Thoroughbred Sea Hero gave owner Paul Mellon (1907-1999) his first Kentucky Derby victory. It was also the first Derby win for jockey Jerry Bailey and trainer MacKenzie Miller. With the victory, Mellon became the only owner to ever win the Kentucky Derby, the Epsom Derby, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Sea Hero went on to win the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He was retired to stud at age four. Today, Sea Hero is the oldest living winner of the Kentucky Derby.

Andrew Baxter cleans the bronze sculpture of Sea Hero at the NSLM.
Andrew Baxter cleans the bronze sculpture of Sea Hero at the NSLM.

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Paul Mellon commissioned British sculptor Tessa Pullan to create a beautiful, three-quarter size bronze of the horse in 1995. Pullan is the same sculptor who created the Civil War Horse at the entrance to the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) campus. The sculpture of Sea Hero came to NSLM in October 2014 via the bequest of Mr. Mellon. It stands atop an impressive stone base, weighs over two tons and measures eight feet tall. Now installed in the NSLM boxwood garden, Sea Hero has recently been cleaned and treated by conservator Andrew Baxter.

Sculpture expert Benjamin Gage and his team lower Sea Hero into place at NSLM.
Sculpture expert Benjamin Gage and his team lower Sea Hero into place at NSLM.

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There are only two weeks left until Hero in the Homestretch: The Sea Hero Symposium on Saturday, May 30th! We invite you to join us for a day of presentations on the art and conservation, the transport and installation, and the horse that was the inspiration for the newest sculpture at the NSLM. This event will delve into the science of fine art conservation, in particular Andrew Baxter’s years caring for a variety of Mr. Mellon’s sculptures. Benjamin Gage will discuss the challenges of moving large-scale sculptures, and racing historian Ed Bowen will detail the history and legacy of Sea Hero and Mellon’s Rokeby Stables.

Sea Hero after conservation.
Sea Hero after conservation.

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Last week, fine art conservator Andrew Baxter was here on site to treat our bronze sculpture of Sea Hero. Andrew specializes in sculpture conservation and has worked on metal and stone art objects at major institutions like the National Gallery of Art, the White House, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (and the NSLM!). He will be presenting at our upcoming program Hero in the Homestretch: The Sea Hero Symposium on May 30th. Here is a sneak peak at some of the trade secrets he will be sharing in his presentation.

The amazing thing about conservation is, it’s about art and science! This is one of the few times you will see this art historian get excited about math and chemistry!

So how do you go from this:

Barrel of the horse before treatment. Notice the green corrosion and "channels" created by rain water.
Barrel of the horse before treatment. Notice the green corrosion and streaks created by rain water.

To this?

Sea Hero after cleaning, treatment, new patina, and waxing.
Sea Hero after cleaning, treatment, wax, and polishing.

Not surprisingly, conserving an outdoor sculpture starts with the basics – getting it clean.

Andrew Baxter cleans the bronze with a special non-ionic detergent.
Andrew Baxter cleans the bronze with a special non-ionic detergent.

One of the many fun facts I learned last week: Orvus is a shampoo that many horse people are familiar with for cleaning up their equine friends. This same shampoo used to be widely utilized (and is still sometimes used) on bronze sculptures because of it’s non-corrosive nature. Andrew used a similar cleaning agent.

Next comes some more chemistry. The sculpture is treated with a solution which helps slow corrosion. Bronze metal is actually a combination of copper and tin. As most of us have seen, copper wants to turn green when it is out in the elements. While sometimes those green tints and weathered appearance can look beautiful, for bronze they are actually evidence of corrosion (think rust) which ultimately shortens the lifespan of the metal.

Sea Hero during treatment.
Sea Hero during treatment.

Our conservator then carefully applied layers of pigmented wax to protect the bronze and enhance the dark bay (brown-black) patina of the sculpture. Lots of polishing – and a perfectly warm and sunny day – resulted in the gleaming horse you see now in the boxwood garden.

Sea Hero after treatment.
Sea Hero after treatment.

If you want to learn more about how to care for sculptures, and see great images of some of the other beautiful pieces Andrew has worked on, don’t miss his presentation at the symposium! He’ll also be sharing some wonderful stories of his time working for the great philanthropist and art collector Paul Mellon. Also presenting will be Ben Gage – an expert sculpture handler who has installed some amazing large scale artwork. (He is also one of the most enthusiastic art professionals you will ever meet!) And if you’re curious to learn more about the celebrity model for our bronze, racing historian and author Ed Bowen will be speaking about Mellon’s Rokeby Stables and Sea Hero the horse. Sea Hero is the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner and is currently living a life of luxury in Turkey. His 1993 Derby win was the first for owner Paul Mellon, trainer Mackenzie Miller and jockey Jerry Bailey.

Come join us to learn more about them all on May 30th! To read more and register, click here or call us: (540) 687-6542 x. 25

 

I am very pleased to announce the arrival of three new additions to the collections here at the NSLM. (Those of you who were here for our first Open Late concert got a sneak preview!) We had to wait quite a while to complete the installations – first for some landscaping and facility projects to be finished and then for the seemingly never-ending winter to end. But now that spring has sprung – so have our new sculptures!

We are grateful to the generous donors who gifted these lovely works to the permanent collection. Thanks are also due to the staff who helped make the installations possible. We installed the sculptures with the safety of our visitors and the safety of the artwork in mind.

Here is the roster of the newest outdoor works, who will welcome you to campus on your next visit.

Jean Clagett (American, b. 1945), Darn That Itch, 2014, bronze, 31 ½ H x 36 L x 23 W inches  Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2014 (© Jean Clagett)
Jean Clagett (American, b. 1945), Darn That Itch, 2014, bronze, 31 ½ H x 36 L x 23 W inches
Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2014 (© Jean Clagett)
The new Clagett bronze in front of the Museum building.
The new Clagett bronze in front of the Museum building.

This charming little filly, reaching to nibble at an itch, is number 2 of 5 casts by Jean Clagett. This piece was commissioned by donor Jacqueline B. Mars from the Virginia based artist, specifically for the NSLM. For any of you lucky enough to go to the Rolex 3-Day event at the Kentucky Horse Park this year, you would have seen another sculpture by Clagett – a life-size bronze of Olympian Bruce Davidson aboard his champion event horse, Eagle Lion.

The Clagett bronze, part-way through the installation process.
The Clagett bronze, part-way through the installation process.
J. Clayton Bright, Red Fox (Vulpes Fulva), bronze, 13 ½ x 30 ¾ inches Gift of an Anonymous Donor, 2013 (© J. Clayton Bright)
J. Clayton Bright (American, b. 1946), Red Fox (Vulpes Fulva), bronze, 13 ½ x 30 ¾ inches
Gift of an Anonymous Donor, 2013
(© J. Clayton Bright)
The new Clayton Bright bronze on the wall in front of the old Vine Hill building.
The new Clayton Bright bronze on the wall in front of the old Vine Hill building.

Artist J. Clayton Bright is based in Pennsylvania. He is a sculptor, as well as a painter, who is best known for his animal subjects, like this life-size fox. Learn more about his process for creating bronze sculptures here (his studio website features a great slide show explaining the process for the “lost wax method”).

Rupert Till (English, b. 1969), After the Chase, 2005, steel wire, 20 ½ H x 46 L x 10 ½ W inches Gift of Reverend Elijah White, in memory of Anita Graf White, M.F.H 1970 – 2005, 2013 (© Rupert Till)
Rupert Till (English, b. 1969), After the Chase, 2005, steel wire, 20 ½ H x 46 L x 10 ½ W inches
Gift of Reverend Elijah White, in memory of Anita Graf White, M.F.H 1970 – 2005, 2013
(© Rupert Till)

English artist Rupert Till has been working with wire for over 20 years. He started out sculpting steel wire (chicken wire) and now also works with bronze and copper. The figures he creates out of this surprisingly versatile medium are full of character, movement, and expression. Check out some of his other works here.  This wire sculpture was generously donated by Reverend Elijah White, in memory of his late wife, Anita Graf White, who was a former M.F.H. of the Loudoun Hunt.

Our Facilities Manger (and installation expert) Aaron preparing the ground for the sculpture's concrete base.
Our Facilities Manger (and sometimes sculpture installer!) Aaron preparing the ground for the sculpture’s concrete base.

We’ll be adding some outdoor labels for these new sculptures soon. Now that nice weather is here, we hope you will come visit and enjoy the new outdoor installations!