Purchase Story

A Morning’s Work Leads Sporting Art Auction’s $2.5 Million Sale

Cross Gate Gallery/Keeneland, Lexington, Kentucky

Photos courtesy Cross Gate Gallery

It’s a natural collaboration for Keeneland—where everyone who is anyone goes to buy the finest Thoroughbreds—and Cross Gate Gallery—where everyone who is anyone goes to purchase the finest sporting art. These Lexington, Kentucky-based businesses first teamed up in 2013 to bring to the horse-loving community a specialized auction featuring sporting art in the third week of November.

Beginning in September in conjunction with Keeneland’s yearling sale, Cross Gate creates a gallery display of the sporting art that will sell in the Keeneland sales pavilion a few days after the close of Keeneland’s breeding stock sale in November.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Field Ladd, head of acquisitions, appraisals, and client services for Cross Gate Gallery, explained. “The fine art is displayed for more than two months and is positioned so those coming to Keeneland’s sale pavilion to buy horses, they continually walk past the art to be auctioned. Maybe 20,000 people are seeing the items to be sold firsthand. We are putting the material in front of the people that would be most interested in what is selling and have the means to buy what they like.”

This oil on canvas, A Morning’s Work, Newmarket Heath, by Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) led the auction. The British-born Munnings is renowned as one of the great masters of sporting art, which played a role in this 15¼" x 28¼" work’s selling price of $186,300 (est. $200,000/300,000).

A pair (one shown) of oil on canvas barnyard scenes by John Frederick Herring Jr. (British, 1820-1907) showing horses mingling with roaming chickens in a paddock sold together for $40,250 (est. $12,000/15,000). Each work measures 12¼" x 181/8".

Measuring 40" x 32", The Grand Prix de Paris, 1895, oil on canvas, by Gustave Wertheimer (Austrian, 1847-1904) had been exhibited at Paintings from the Salon and the Champ de Mars Paris at the Jordan Art Gallery, Boston, 1897-98. It sold for $28,750 (est. $12,000/15,000).

The 2017 edition of the Sporting Art Auction, which includes sporting art, American paintings, and sculpture, was held on November 19. It was the fifth Sporting Art Auction put together by Cross Gate Gallery, a leading gallery of fine sporting art, sponsored by Keeneland, a premier Thoroughbred sales company. “It is a fifty-fifty partnership,” Ladd stated, noting, “Keeneland uses their half of the proceeds to support their charitable foundation.”

“We were really thrilled with this year’s auction,” Ladd stated. “We had an 85 percent sell-through rate, the sale grossed approximately $2.5 million, and it is exciting to know consignors with racing art to sell are seeking us out. Sometimes it can be challenging to put together 175 pieces of sporting art that we approve of, but this year, that was not the case.”

Cross Gate Gallery explained, “Sporting art is a broad term, which tends to include not only equine subjects such as fox hunting and horse racing, but typically will also include shooting, fishing, yachting, or any subject which depicts the favorite pastimes of ‘country gentlemen.’ Sporting art has its roots in the early 18th century when British noblemen, while enjoying their sport, wanted to commemorate their favorite horses, dogs, or other sporting scenes, and would ask the top artists of the day to depict these subjects. This practice has continued through the present day.”

Selling with an original Winchester rifles advertisement that measured 32" x 42", this 12" x 15" oil on canvas, Bear Dogs, by Henry Rankin Poore (1859-1940) sold for $27,600 (est. $8000/10,000).

This pair of 1847 oil on canvas works, each 15" x 21", by Henry Alken Sr. (British, 1785-1851), Start for the Derby and Cossack Winning the Derby, sold together for $63,250 (est. $60,000/80,000).

This oil on canvas, The Finish of the Derby 1893, 60" x 108", by Major G.D. Giles (British, 1857-1941) sold for $57,500 (est. $50,000/70,000). This image is a wonderful example of how horse enthusiasts commissioned artists to capture an important moment in horse-racing history and the interest by today’s horse enthusiasts to acquire and preserve the moment.

The top lot of the auction was A Morning’s Work, Newmarket Heath by Sir Alfred James Munnings (British, 1878-1959), which sold for $186,300 (includes buyer’s premium); it was estimated at $200,000/300,000. The signed oil on canvas was, as the catalog described, “related to a much larger work titled Early Morning, Newmarketthat was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1950. The Sir Alfred James Munnings Museum in Dedham, Essex, has two studies of the horse on the far right. Newmarket was unquestionably Munnings’ favorite course. He was allowed a studio in the old rubbing down house, and the course clerk let him drive right up to the starter’s post. As Munnings never painted horses actually racing, the early morning exercise became a favorite subject of his, something he loved to observe.”

The Finish of the Derby 1893, an oil on canvas by Major G.D. Giles (British, 1857-1941), signed and dated 1894, sold for $57,500 (est. $50,000/70,000). The 60" x 108" painting shows Isinglass, who was undefeated in his two-year-old season and as a three-year-old became the sixth horse ever to win the British Triple Crown. This work was painted for Harry McCalmont, owner of Isinglass, who commissioned G.D. Giles to “have the victory of Isinglass in the Derby celebrated on canvas in grand style,” according to the Worcestershire Chronicleof July 1, 1893.

Man O’War, Clarence Kummer Up, 18¼" x 21¾", oil on canvas, by Richard Stone Reeves (1919-2005) sold for $40,250 (est. $15,000/18,000). Cross Gate Gallery included this interesting bit about the artist and the subject matter: “When Man o’ War sold at the Saratoga sales for $5,000, the man bidding that day on behalf of Samuel D. Riddle was Ed Buhler, the uncle of Richard Stone Reeves. Reeves said that bit of knowledge when he was young—‘My uncle bought Man o’ War’—led directly to his association with Thoroughbreds. ‘It was,’ Reeves says, ‘a very special thrill when the publishers commissioned me to paint Man o’ War for Classic Lines. I had gathered reference material since I was a boy. It was almost as if I had been practicing all my life for that one painting.’—Richard Stone Reeves, Classic Lines, page 95.”

Two oil on board works by Richard Stone Reeves, Affirmed and Alydar, US Race of the Year, 1978, the Belmont Stakes (shown) and Race of the Year in Europe, 1978, Shirley Heights Winning Irish Sweeps Derby, sold together for $28,750 (est. $12,000/15,000). Each 14" x 20" work is signed and dated 1978 on the reverse.

Richard Stone Reeves had the opportunity to paint the legendary Thoroughbred and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew three different times. The catalog listing quotes Reeves from Royal Blood: Fifty Years of Classic Thoroughbreds (1994): “I saw Seattle Slew all three years that he raced, and I painted him three times. I painted him for the first time for Karen and Mickey Taylor. It was at Belmont Park in the fall of 1978, and he was about to retire. He had matured by that time into a pretty big horse. I also painted him for jockey Jean Cruguet, one of the few jockeys who have commissioned a painting. I later saw him at Spendthrift, where he posed for another portrait—as a stallion.” This oil on canvas, Seattle Slew, 20" x 24", by Reeves, dated 1991, sold for $31,050 (est. $15,000/20,000), surpassing Slew’s selling price as a yearling—$17,500.

Two 1847 oil on canvas works by Henry Alken Sr. (British, 1785-1851), Start for the Derby and Cossack Winning the Derby, sold together for $63,250 (est. $60,000/80,000). Each measured 15" x 21" and was signed with the artist’s initials “HA” and dated 1847. Alken is known for many images depicting the start of horse races, but Start for the Derbyshows the most horses and jockeys ever to appear in any of Alken’s “start” paintings, the catalog explained.

The first 80 lots of the sale were made up of early sporting art, especially turn-of-the-century racing scenes similar to those mentioned above. From lot 80 on, the sale turned to contemporary works. And the images and sculptures presented were sometimes not what that particular artist is known for.

“We have approached contemporary artists who might not do sporting art and have asked them to give it a try,” Ladd said, citing Quang Ho (Vietnamese/American, b. 1963), whose two works offered at the auction sold for $17,250 (To the Winner’s Circle, est. $18,000/22,000) and $19,550 (Harmony in Whites, est. $18,000/22,000). “For many contemporary artists new to this subject matter, they love the genre and plan to do more.”

Cocktails at the Races by Randall Davey (1887-1964), oil on canvas, 40" x 30", sold for $34,500 (est. $30,000/40,000). Cross Gate Gallery’s Field Ladd stated, “I would say we sell the most paintings and sculpture in the $20,000 to $30,000 price range. We find that once a painting gets near $100,000,” Ladd continued with a smile, “our buyers understandably stop to think just what kind of horse they could get for the same money.”

Full-on racing is represented by this oil on canvas work by Jean-Bernard Lalanne (French, b. 1952), Flying to the Finish. The 24" x 28" painting sold for $17,250 (est. $6000/9000).

The contemporary pieces also stretch what the term “sporting art” might include. “If the art features animals, their habitat, or say a rural vista like Mountain Valleyby [Eric] Sloane [$14,950, est. $10,000/12,000], we feel it is applicable and include these images in the auction,” Ladd stated.

The contemporary work Heading Home by Andre Pater (Polish/American, b. 1953) of two riders and horses with hounds heading home from a hunt that sold for $115,000 (est. $125,000/150,000) fits the definition of sporting art, as does The Paddock at Keeneland, an impressionistic oil on canvas by Peter Howell (British, b. 1932) that sold for $46,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). Still Waterby British sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green (b. 1963) sold for $103,500 (est. $50,000/70,000). The signed bronze portrays a horse’s head as it drinks.

Artwork without a tie to horses that found new homes included American Yacht “Vigilant” Racing Against the King’s Yacht “Britannia” on the Solent off the Royal Yacht Squadron by Richard Firth (British, b. 1954). This 18" x 27" oil on canvas sold for $25,300 (est. $12,000/15,000). Butterflies in Taormina, an oil on masonite by Henry Faulkner (1924-1981), depicting Taormina, Sicily, surrounded with butterflies and birds, was a sporting art stretch. Still, it was well liked and sold for $23,000 (est. $20,000/25,000).

Cross Gate Gallery owner Gregg Ladd stated, “The Sporting Art Auction has become a year-round project for us, and we love it. We enjoy taking the art to the people who we know will appreciate it the most. Being able to put our auction right in front of potential buyers like this is a wonderful opportunity, and working with Keeneland to do so has been a joy.”

For more information, contact Cross Gate Gallery at (859) 233-3856 or (www.crossgategallery.com).

Selling for $115,000 (est. $125,000/150,000) was this oil on canvas, Heading Home by Andre Pater. This 30" x 40" painting was exhibited at Andre Pater in a Sporting Light at the National Sporting Library & Museum, Middleburg, Virginia, from April to August 2017.

The Paddock at Keeneland, 24" x 20", an oil on canvas by Peter Howell (British, b. 1932), was well received by sporting art enthusiasts and sold for $46,000 (est. $10,000/15,000).

Originally published in the March 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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