What you need to know about equestrian art, and 7 works that will make your jaw drop

  • There’s no denying that horses are beautiful creatures, that is partly why equestrians are crazy about them, and why horses have been a popular subject of artwork for centuries. So if you’re looking to indulge your passion for horses through a more creative channel, treat someone who is mad about horses, or are perhaps looking for an equestrian-related investment that doesn’t require feeding, buying a statement piece of horse art could be for you.

    If you’re looking to buy art for the first time and don’t know where to start, going to an exhibition such as the annual one put on by the Society of Equestrian Artists with over 100 exhibitors could be a good start. Art dealer Sally Mitchell also suggests buying a print of a work by an artist first “as a cheap way into the market and a way to learn whether you can live with an artist’s works or not”. In fact she cautions against buying a piece of art that immediately hits you “as it can get tedious, but if a work has subtleties, you’ll find the longer you live with it, the more you like it”.

    From an investment point of view, historic paintings by famous artists such as Cecil Aldin are a safe bet. It’s important to note though that if you’re going to invest in an antique, maybe get an expert eye to look over it for you make sure it hasn’t been over-cleaned – this can often lead to a lot of the original paint being removed and fixed with new paint.

    If your chequebook doesn’t extend to antique however, keep an eye on upcoming, living artists. Go for something with good colour and good use of light – “you should be able to tell the temperature of the day by looking at the picture” Sally advises. With the artist still living though, don’t expect the painting to go up in value within a year or two, as sadly their death could actually cause values to go up.

    Given the unpredictability of the art market, it is unsurprising that Sotheby’s Robin Cawdron-Stewart’s advice is to ask yourself when considering a piece of art; “do I love it?”. His tip is to attend pre-sale exhibitions at auction houses, which are free, open to everyone and you can talk to the specialist about the works up for auction.

    Once you’ve got the piece, whether it’s bought as an investment or just because you love it and horses, remember to take care of it. “Try to avoid placing paintings in rooms with fluctuating temperatures that might impact the paint surface,” says Robin. “If it’s a room with an open fire, put it behind the glass”. Acid-free mounts and UV glass to prevent fading and discolouration must also be considered for any works on paper.

    Now, with all this in mind, here are some great artists and artworks to consider…

    Jane Braithwaite — Canal Turn, £2,250

    After choosing to devote more time to family life after she lost her home-bred eventer, Jane fed her passion for horses through painting. Thoroughbreds particularly interest Jane and are a common subject in her paintings where her style emphasises their movement and energy. “I want to achieve correctness of conformation, gait etc, but at the same time maintain a certain looseness in the way the paint is laid on.”
    Price range: Charcoal drawings are around £300 – £400, while oil paintings range from £700 – £2,000.

    Sally Martin — Grey Andalusian II, £4,000

    Sally’s gorgeous paintings are formed from “a combination of memory, observation, imagination and photographic reference gathered at equestrian events and abroad”. The fact that she never starts with a fixed-outcome in mind, just a basic drawing before going on to layer in large areas of colour no doubt all contribute to the dream-like quality of her horses.
    Price range: £400 – £8,000

    Bénédicte Gelé — Equine Nude 91t, €450

    Bénédicte takes a minimalist approach to capturing the figure of the horse, inspired by a love of drawing human nudes at art school. “What is important to me is to keep the motion in the line, to have the minimum of details to keep the dynamism of the body. Actually, to say more with less.” Note that in many of her works she does not paint in ears as she believes it is to obvious to read a horse’s expression from them – “I prefer to let the spectator imagine what he feels in front of a head”.
    Price range: Her works start at €20 for a sketch and can up to €2,500.

    Malcolm Coward — Crossing the brook, SOLD

    Malcolm is a much-lauded member of the equestrian artist community and his paintings don’t remain unsold for long, particularly the hunting ones, so you’ll have to be quick to snap one up. He’s very much an impressionist with a preference for light versus detail.
    Price range: £350 – £6,000

    Heather Jansch — A driftwood original and the bronze, POA

    Heather is world famous for her sculptures of horses made from driftwood, a now much copied trend. She is still the original and the best though; “observation is what sets my work apart from mass-produced driftwood horses”. It can take years for her to complete a sculpture as she waits until she finds the offcut “that suddently gives a radiant vibrancy, bringing the work alive”. Driftwood sculptures don’t last well outside, so Heather only sells the driftwood originals for for display inside. She immortalises them with bronze copies that are hard to tell apart from the original, which can be displayed outside.
    Price range: Small desk top sculptures start from £4,250

    André Brasilier — Grande Fantasia Marocaine, POA

    French artist André Brasilier’s equestrian works are extremely sought after, as is evidenced by the fact his horse paintings have increased in value by 500% over the past six years. Bright pallets and a joyfulness to the motion of the horse marks out André’s works. Now in his late 80s, he’s currently exhibiting in London, his first return to the English capital in 12 years at the Opera Gallery.

    Continued below…

    Sir Alfred James Munnings — ‘Soldier and Sailor Painted in the Park at Catton Hall, Norfolk’, estimate £20,000 – £30,000

    If you’re looking to get your hands on less contemporary pieces of equine art, you should get yourself down to Sotheby’s on 13 December as a beautiful Munnings watercolour, ‘Soldier and Sailor Painted in the Park at Catton Hall, Norfolk’ is up for auction. Munnings is of course one of Britain’s most famous turn of the century artists who focused on horses, employing an impressionist style to depict them.

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

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