The 21st Century Equine Artist
By Victoria Elsbury-Legg
Throughout the centuries many different brushstrokes have been made to capture the beauty, athleticism and magnificent elegance of the horse. From the Stone Age, Man has recreated images of the animal whose gait and form never cease to fascinate. Equine paintings still adore the 16,000 year old walls of the Lascaux caves and prehistoric hill figures such as the Uffington White Horse are visible amongst the Oxfordshire hills. In Ancient Greece the proud steeds and their chariots were frequently immortalised in statues, with the bronze ‘Horses of Saint Mark’ raising a hoof in Italy to this day.
In later years, Leonardo da Vinci documented a ‘Study of horse’ (now in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle) and in 1482 the Duke of Milan Ludovico il Moro commissioned him to create a monument to his father, intended to be the largest equestrian statue in the world. Dissection of equine carcasses in the 1700’s, to truly understand the form he was painting, lead to Stubbs being dubbed ‘the horse painter’. In 1887 it was Eadweard Muybridge who visualised an animate sequence of a race horse galloping, and amongst many other names throughout the years, Sir Alfred Munnings, the President of the Royal Academy in 1944, who specialised in equine subjects.
Now it is the turn of Jeremy Houghton, whose enigmatic brushstrokes effortlessly capture the graceful spontaneity and power of the horse – my interpretation – an equine Banksy. Working in reverse, Jeremy uses masking fluid and a fine brush to mask out all the areas he wants to keep white then puts watercolour over the top. Random paint splashes evoke movement and once the masking fluid is rubbed off his four-legged steeds and riders come to life.
Inspired by APOLOA (Army Polo Association) and the commemoration of WWI in 2014, Jeremy has worked from previously unseen photographs to create a watercolour collection illustrating the unique relationship between man and horse, from the polo pitch to the battlefield. One painting from this collection (shown above) depicting three polo players, is titled ‘Future Prime Minister v Future King’. Captured in a 1930 photograph and now a 21st Century watercolour, are Winston Churchill and The Prince of Wales (soon to be Edward VIII) whose sights are set on a distant goal as they contemplate a ride off.
Jeremy Houghton’s work somehow captures the ancient history and bond between man and horse, yet brings it alive with a modern touch. Maybe that is why he has previously been commissioned to paint HM The Queen, was the official artist of the 2012 Olympic Games, and in 2013 was the Artist in Residence for HRH The Prince of Wales. In the same year he was also commissioned by Aston Martin to follow their race around Europe for two weeks sketching their cars during the day and painting in the true traditional artistic style of his garret dwelling predecessors at night. Snatching only a few hours of sleep between sketch and painting, Jeremy Houghton’s story does of course have a 21st Century twist – he was fuelled by Red Bull.
In 2012 The Art Investor Magazine stated that ‘Houghton represents a rare blend of artistic talent and ambition; he has a fascinating future ahead of him. For collections old and new looking for art as an asset, we strongly recommend his name.’
And the great news is – he paints polo.
Jeremy Houghton’s APOLOA touring exhibition, ‘100 Years of British Army Polo. Ponies at War. The WWI Centenary Collection’ will be at exhibited at Guards Polo Club, this Sunday 31st August, with the Final of The Major General Tournament as a backdrop on The Queen’s Ground at Smith’s Lawn.