Having your favourite steed immortalised in a painting is up there on most horse owners’ wish lists. We find out how to go about it — and the pitfalls to avoid
1. Research your artist thoroughly and, if possible, go and see some of their paintings
It sounds obvious, but take time to choose the right artist. Make a close study of their work and find examples that are closest to what you are hoping for. If you can, go and see the work hanging on the wall. Susan Crawford, Britain’s grande dame of equestrian art, is currently painting the stallion Kingman for Prince Khalid Abdullah. “Look at the artist’s work and see if it would suit you,” she advises. “Then go and have a chat.”
2. Have a good idea of what you want from the commission
Consider the location, the feel, if you would like to be in the picture, what you would like to be wearing. How big do you want the picture to be? The more information you can give the artist, the better.
3. Listen to the artist’s advice about what will or won’t work
Your idea may pose artistic problems which you haven’t identified. The initial conversation is vital says sporting artist Charles Church, currently working on a portrait of eventer Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul. “Most people have an idea in their mind of how this would work and it’s always a toss-up between getting it right artistically and what the client wants,” he says.
4. If you are being depicted as well, question whether you have a rapport with the artist — this can have a bearing on the success of the picture
Charlie Hemsley already knew Charles Church and was an admirer of his work when her husband commissioned Charles to paint her and her horse, Crinan, at home in Dorset (pictured, above).
“I did view the whole thing with a certain amount of trepidation, but Charles made the process painless,” she says. “It was a beautiful, sunny morning. We picked our spot on the farm and I rode around a bit while Charles did sketches and took hundreds of pictures.”
“Having your portrait painted is such a personal thing, so try and find an artist who you click with,” she recommends.
5. Be aware that sittings from life might be time sensitive
Will you want your horse painted at peak fitness? When is that most likely to be? If it is a hunting picture with a landscape, you may have to wait for winter so that the artist can capture the country in that state.
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6. Don’t expect the painting to be produced overnight
You will probably have several months to wait before you can hang it on your wall. When Susan Crawford painted The Queen on her Highland pony, Jingle, at Balmoral in 2009 she had less than an hour to photograph and sketch the figure of horse and rider but she confides: “The entire painting took nearly a year because of the detail in the landscape.”
For the full article about equestrian artists, don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (17 August 2017)