|By Lionel Edwards. Image size 15'' x 9'' (38 x 23 cms).
This is a tremendous racing scene by one of the finest equestrian artists of the twentieth century. Lionel Edwards was a consummate horseman, and rode for most of his adult life. This is one of a relatively small number of racing paintings that he produced: he tended to paint hunting scenes, declaring that “racing is a branch of sporting art which seems to defeat artists.” Nonetheless, it seems that he is to be included in the ranks of the unvanquished, for his success in capturing the spirit of the occasion in this striking painting is conspicuous.
Newmarket, widely known as the “home of horseracing”, is perhaps the most famous racecourse in the world. The first race at Newmarket took place in 1622, during the reign of James I, but it was not until the late eighteenth century that fixed annual race meetings were established. Racing has continued there ever since, with meetings still taking place even during the two World Wars, and the proud traditions of the racecourse have not been abandoned as Newmarket continues to go from strength to strength.
This painting was executed in 1961, towards the end of Lionel Edwards’ life; he was by now in his ninth decade, but this indefatigable figure refused to slip into a quiet retirement, and continued to hunt well into his eighties. His artistic output remained prolific, and the quality was as high as ever; his friend Kathleen Aldridge fondly remembered that “during the last twenty years of his life, Lionel painted entirely to give other people pleasure and for his own pleasure – certainly not for the money.” This perpetually enthusiastic approach is well reflected in this wonderful painting.