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John Rattenbury Skeaping
Harness Racing, Arles, France, 1960. Equine.Sulky. Driver.Jockeys. Racehorses.




This original gouache and watercolor painting by John Rattenbury Skeaping, dated 1960, is presented and supplied in a new contemporary and sympathetic frame (which is shown in these photographs), a new mount, conservation materials and non-reflective Tru Vue UltraVue® UV70 glass. This vintage painting is in very good condition, commensurate with its age. It wants for nothing and is supplied ready to hang and display. Previously with Arthur Ackermann & Son Ltd, 3 Old Bond Street, London W.1. The painting is signed and dated 1960 lower right. The frame dimensions are 57cm high x 78.5cm wide. The visible painting dimensions are 38.5cm high x 60.5cm wide (15.2inches high x 23.8inches wide). This vintage painting is in very good condition, commensurate with its age. It wants for nothing and is supplied ready to hang and display. John Skeaping is regarded as the leading equine sculptor of the twentieth century. He also became a highly regarded racehorse painter in his middle age. He was born in South Woodford, Essex, England on 9 June 1901. His father was a portrait painter who shared a studio with Cézanne and his mother was a musician. Several other members of his family were also very artistic. He had an unconventional childhood as one of four children, none of whom were sent to school. His father believed in a basic training in the arts and they were therefore taken to exhibitions, concerts, theatre and ballet. For young John, the tandem themes of horses and art emerged and remained with him for the rest of his life. Aged 13 John Skeaping was already showing an early aptitude, and enrolled at Blackheath School of Art. Then aged 14 he went to Goldsmiths College in the Sculpture School. From there he went to the Central School of Arts & Crafts and then the Royal Academy Schools, where he won the Royal Academy Gold Medal and travelling scholarship. He then taught in Newcastle. In 1924 he won the Prix de Rome and went to Rome on a three year scholarship. Barbara Hepworth won the second prize and they met in Rome and married in Florence in 1925. They returned to London in 1926 and worked together for a while. Indeed, they put on a joint exhibition in Glasgow and London in 1928 that established them in the forefront of British Sculpture. However, the couple drifted apart artistically and personally and separated in 1931, divorcing two years later. Skeaping continued modeling and carving, and created several animal pieces for Wedgwood in 1928 of a Sea Lion, Kangaroo, Duiker, Polar Bear, Bison, Tiger, Deer and Antelope groups that are quite stylized and reflect the Art Deco influence of the era. He also did stone carvings of animals during this time. During the 1930s, Skeaping spent as much time as possible in the countryside with his second wife, whom he married in 1934. They were lent a cottage in Dartmoor, where they stayed for a summer and started to train and race greyhounds. At the beginning of the Second World War Skeaping served in the Royal Intelligence Corps as an official war artist in Europe before transferring to the SAS in North Africa. However, he began to suffer from nervous stomach trouble and was invalided out just before the end of the war. On his return to civilian life he became disillusioned with London, so went to Devon to live. After a short while though he returned to London though and spent a period teaching at the Royal College of Art. He then went to Mexico for a year and a half, living amongst the Indians and learning how to make their traditional pottery. In 1950 he returned to England and became Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art. He remained there until his retirement in 1959 when he moved to the Camargue in France, partly for health reasons. There he studied the wild horses of the Camargue, and lived for twenty years with his third wife. Skeaping first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1922; he was elected an Associate there in 1951 and Academician in 1959. During the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Skeaping was associated with the famous Ackermann firm who offered sporting and racing art. He produced many paintings and drawings of horses during this time. Most of his equestrian works are from the 1960s and 1970s and his subjects covered racehorses, harness horses, flat racers and steeplechasers. He also did some fine commissioned portraits of famous horses of the day including Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Hyperion, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Chamossaire, and more. He received many commissions during his life, mainly for his horse sculptures. Between 1960 and 1969, seven of his one man shows were held at Ackermann’s Gallery, and there were retrospective exhibitions at the same venue in 1979, 1981 and 1984. He wrote and illustrated four books, including his autobiography Drawn from Life, which was published in 1977. He died in London on 5 March 1980. Today John Skeaping’s sculpture and paintings are in many museum collections, including the Tate, the British Museum, and the Royal Academy in the UK, and others in the USA, Japan, and Australia, as well as in private collections. His bronzes were cast in small editions of 10 or less casts, and are very highly prized. This gouache and watercolour on paper painting depicts two horses with their drivers, at Arles harness race meeting in 1960. The horses are both chestnut, or bay. One of the carts is yellow, the other red. The men in the carts are dressed as jockeys, with boots, white jodhpurs and caps. The image is created with the expert lightness of touch so typical of Skeaping. Arles is a city on the River Rhône in the Provence region of southern France. It is also seen as the capital of the Camargue region, and is on the northern reaches of this area. The Camargue region is a vast wetland area which includes a regional park and natural reserve. It is famed for its unique landscape, ornithology, and expert breeding of bulls and horses. Arles itself is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Arles was once a provincial capital of ancient Rome and has an impressive amphitheatre (les Arènes d'Arles), where many events are now held, including theatrical productions, chariot racing and harness racing. The subjects of this artwork were probably studied there by the artist. Harness racing is a particular form of horse racing where the horse pulls a two-wheeled cart called a sulky or spider. This has bicycle wheels and indeed is also sometimes referred to as a ‘bike’. The person who directs the horse from the sulky is not called a jockey, but a driver. He carries a light whip, which is used chiefly to signal the horse by tapping and the make noise by striking the sulky shaft. In North America harness races are restricted to Standardbred horses, but in Europe racehorses might also be French Trotters or Russian Trotters. Horses bread for harness racing tend to have proportionally shorter legs and longer bodies than thoroughbreds, and a more placid disposition. In this type of racing the horses race at a specific gait, which may be a trot or pace. The difference is that a trotter moves its legs forward in diagonal pairs (right front and left hind, then left front and right hind striking the ground simultaneously), whereas a pacer moves its legs laterally (right front and right hind together, then left front and left hind. In continental Europe harness races are conducted exclusively among trotters, whereas in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the United States the great majority of races are held for pacers. This painting therefore shows horses in France who would be traditional trotters.


  • Creator
  • Creation Year
  • Dimensions
    Height: 22.45 in. (57 cm)Width: 30.91 in. (78.5 cm)Depth: 0.79 in. (2 cm)
  • Medium
  • Movement & Style
  • Period
  • Condition
    This vintage painting is in very good condition, commensurate with its age. It wants for nothing and is supplied ready to hang and display.
  • Gallery Location
    Sutton Poyntz, GB
  • Reference Number
    1stDibs: LU48937066982

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    Rates vary by destination and complexity. We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility.
    Ships From: Sutton Poyntz, United Kingdom
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