Day At The Track

Horse artist elevated to the Hall of Fame

05:39 AM 31 Aug 2009 NZST
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Richard Stone Reeves
Richard Stone Reeves
Photo courtesy USTA and Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame

Richard Stone Reeves (1919-2005) will be inducted as a Harness Racing Hall of Fame Immortal on Sunday, July 4, 2010. To recognize his important work chronicling significant Standardbreds of the last century, for the next 12 months the museum has installed, in The Carriage Room, a presentation of his oil paintings and prints. He was renowned for some brilliant harness racing portraits.

Reeves, described as "one of the premier equine artists in the world" by The New York Times, introduced a unique perspective to the tradition of equine portraiture in the mid-1940s. This well-known equine painter added a lifelike dimension to otherwise two-dimensional canvases by placing equal emphasis on his subjects' physical attributes and psychological characteristics.

Not afraid to leave his studio, Reeves regularly traveled to tracks and training facilities to study his four-legged subjects and talk to their owners, trainers and drivers, to better understand the horses' personalities. The result was a lifetime of stunning portraits that magnificently captured the character and individuality of each equine subject.

Although Reeves has become known primarily for his Thoroughbred portraiture, his roots were firmly embedded in the Standardbred community. Born in Manhattan on Nov. 6, 1919, young Reeves indulged his passion for horses and art by spending his free time sketching Standardbreds at the nearby Mineola Fairgrounds, later the grounds of Roosevelt Raceway.

It was there that he met Immortal Harry Pownall, who later became Arden Homestead Stables' driver-trainer. Pownall was Reeves' first patron in 1934 when he paid him $10 for a watercolor painting of Hanover Maid.

Reeves received his BA in Fine Arts from Syracuse University in 1941; however, he put his art career on hold to serve his country in World War II. It was during the four years he served in the U.S. Navy, that Reeves fortuitously met fellow naval officer Robert G. Johnson, president of Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island, N.Y. Due to this fateful acquaintance Reeves obtained his first official commission: to paint portraits of the top trotters and pacers of 1946 for the flagship racetrack's clubhouse.

Following Reeves' Roosevelt experience, his fame spread rapidly within the Standardbred and Thoroughbred communities. He received commissions from prominent horsemen and art collectors, including the Aga Khan, Stanley Dancer, Elbridge T. Gerry, Sr., Harry Guggenheim, Roland Harriman, Paul Mellon, Delvin Miller and Ronald Reagan. His star subjects include the Standardbreds Meadow Skipper, Nevele Pride, Adios, Speedy Somolli and Cardigan Bay and the Thoroughbreds Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Nijinsky.

In summing up his years at the easel Reeves reflected, "My painting career started with the trotters. They've been good to me." Richard Stone Reeves passed away on Oct. 7, 2005 in Greenport, N.Y., at the age of 85.

The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame is located at 240 Main St. in Goshen, N.Y., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., eastern. Thanks to U.S. Trotting Association support, the Museum is currently offering free admission for walk-in visitors and $4 per person for group docent-guided tours. For information about the Museum, special events, gift shop services and educational programs the Museum offers, call (845) 294-6330 or visit www.harnessmuseum.com.

(Courtesy of the United States Trotting Association's Newsroom)

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