‘Celebrating the Turf’ takes place from 18th June to 7th July 2018 at the Osborne Studio Gallery. This exhibition of some of the finest contemporary equestrian art has been organised to coincide with Royal Ascot.
Geoffrey Hughes, Director of Osborne Studio Gallery, is a lover of horse racing and the racing world. For at least twenty five years he has held an annual show of the best contemporary equestrian art during Ascot Week.
Royal Ascot is one of the world’s greatest sporting events, and a highlight of the British flat racing season. The racecourse was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, a fanatical follower of the hunt. She discovered the open heath, an ideal racecourse, one day while out riding near Windsor Castle.
The Osborne Studio Gallery has been established since 1986. It is one of London’s leading gallery for equestrian painting and sculpture, with a particular focus on the racing world.
Geoffrey Hughes grew up listening to the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s racing commentaries on the BBC. As a boy it transported him to ‘a much bigger, more interesting world’. At six or seven-years-old, he says: “My twin brother and I would race around the school playground pretending to be jockeys.”
The ‘Voice of Racing’ Sir Peter O’Sullevan, became a close friend, and on his retirement, Chairman of Osborne Studio Gallery. When Sir Peter died in 2015, Geoffrey took charge of his vast collection of memorabilia, even living in his flat to organise the mountains of paper. The gallery put on an exhibition of Sir Peter’s favourite artwork, and personal ephemera, including letters from HM The Queen and HRH The Queen Mother, even race cards, scribbled with eloquent asides.
Artists featured in the exhibition include: Susan Crawford (‘doyenne of British sporting artists’), Nichola Eddery (international commissions from Royal Princes in the Middle East, a commission to paint Frankel for Newmarket Museum), Charlie Langton (master of bronze sculpture of champion thoroughbreds), Mao Wen Biao (unsurpassable depiction of power and speed on the racecourse), Katie 0’Sullivan (astonishing list of commissions from collectors in the racing world, has been named outstanding equestrian painter in the British Isles), Alistair Little (began as an illustrator, whose paintings tell a cinematic story of racing people behind the scenes), Freddy Paske (a former soldier, has achieved major success in celebrating the horse since 2014) residencies with Household Cavalry and the Jockey Club, among others.
Susan Crawford studied classical drawing in Florence. She is known for her ‘convincing portraits of stars of the turf.’ Twenty two Derby winners, portrait commissions for the Royal family include HM The Queen, the Queen Mother and HRH the Prince of Wales. Her work has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, the Queens Gallery, and the Royal Academy. The Victoria and Albert Museum.
Nichola Eddery is an equestrian princess, born into a horse racing dynasty. Her father Pat, was eleven times champion jockey. Nichola is dedicated to the techniques of Old Master drawing and painting. Studied with the greatest teachers in Italy, France and America. She was commissioned to paint a portrait of Frankel the Wonder Horse, inspired by a racecourse scene by George Stubbs (Her work is in the private collections of HRH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, three Saudi Royal princes, the Spanish Duchess of Durcal.
Charlie Langton, painter, and sculptor in bronze, is dedicated to the thoroughbred. In his own words ‘in particular, it is the difference in attitude, character and physicality that sets the champion racehorse apart.’ The owners of Yeats, who commissioned a bronze sculpture of this superstar, call it ‘magnificent’. ‘It really captures the horse’s character and his wonderful presence.
Mao Wen Biao was born in Beijing, moved to London in 1984, studied at the Royal College of Art. Over the past 30 years he has gained an international reputation for monumental paintings and murals. He has painted murals for the Ritz hotel, the RAC Club, and Holland Park, inspired by Gainsborough and Hogarth. He has an extraordinary ability in capturing the dynamism of the race horse. He has become a world leader in sporting art.
Katie O’sullivan is a horse painter whose rise has been almost without parallel. She is considered by many to be the foremost equestrian painter in the British Isles.She was brought up steeped in horses in rural Ireland, studied contemporary art at the Chelsea School of Art. She works in Lambourn, in the heart of English racing country with her four children, and her husband, racehorse trainer and former champion jump jockey, Jamie Osborne. Her work is in the collections of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Earl and Countess of Derby, and too long a list of important owners, breeders, nobility, gentry and assorted celebrities to list here.
Alistair Little began his artistic career as a model maker, moved on to become a commercial illustrator. He reveres the work of the 20th century master of depicting small town America, Norman Rockwell. His own work reflects his love of 50s and 60s Hollywood films. His pictures engage with their gift for unfolding a story. He was encouraged by a collector to unravel the world of racing by painting its characters behind the scenes.
Freddy Paske is now a professional artist working in London and Hampshire. He started painting in childhood and developed his talent throughout his previous career with the British army. In 2014 he exhibited and sold all his sketches from his operational tour in Afghanistan. In 2017 Freddy established residencies with the Household Cavalry, Tattersalls Auctioneers and the Jockey Club to create a body of work celebrating the horse. His paintings have been exhibited in at least twenty galleries and art fairs. This is his second exhibition for the Osborne Studio Gallery.
Michelle Mccullagh lives and works in Dorset. She graduated from Falmouth College of Arts with a Fine Art degree in 2008. Equestrian painting is her first interest and favourite subject. Horses have always been an important part of her life, since she first started riding at three years old. She competed in equestrian events since early childhood, still riding most days.
There have been five solo exhibitions of her work in London and Dorset, since she won the prize for Best Oil Painting at her first show at the Mall Galleries. Among notable collectors of her work are the Duke of Roxburghe, Jilly Cooper, Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani and the Guards Polo Club. Her first book, ‘Racing’ was published last year, featuring life drawings which show her dedication to capturing the horse in movement.
The exhibition takes place from 18th June to 7th July 2018 at the Osborne Studio Gallery, 2 Motcomb Street, Belgravia, London, SW1X 8JU.