The National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket is to stage the first major retrospective of paintings by Lucy Kemp-Welch, considered Britain’s best female equine painter, whose works included illustrations of Black Beauty in Anna Sewell’s famous novel. From 21 October 2023 until 25 February 2024, the Museum will host ‘In her own voice: The art of Lucy Kemp-Welch (1869-1958)’ spanning key moments in the artist’s successful career, in an arena otherwise dominated by men. While the Museum has partnered with the Bournemouth-based Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, several of the paintings are on display to the public for the first time.
Visitors to The National Horseracing Museum can view over 60 pieces from Kemp-Welch’s lifetime. Among the highlights of the exhibition are Forward the Guns! 1917, which is on loan from the Tate and has not been on public view for a number of years and The Gypsy Horse Drovers (1894) which took inspiration from her life in the New Forest. The exhibition is curated by historian David Boyd Haycock, whose biography, The Life and Work of Lucy Kemp-Welch, Painter of Horses was published earlier this year.
A native of Bournemouth, Kemp-Welch was an expert horsewoman with an innate understanding of the equine form. Her paintings include depictions of wild ponies in the New Forest and on Exmoor, those in military service during the First World War, the last horse-launched lifeboat being pulled into the sea, heavy working horses pulling felled timber and hard-working farm horses returning home at the end of the day.
From the late 1890s to the mid-1920s she was one of the country’s best-known female painters in the tradition of British impressionism and illustrated the 1915 edition of Anna Sewell’s classic tale, ‘Black Beauty’.
Several works are on loan from private and public collections, including The Imperial War Museum, The Tate, Bushey Museum and Art Gallery (where she studied under Hubert von Herkomer) and Southampton City Art Gallery. The exhibition was as made possible with a grant from the Weston Loan Programme and Art Fund and has been generously sponsored by the EBM Charitable Trust.
The exhibition is included with general admission to the National Horseracing Museum: adult tickets are £15, children under 16 are free of charge.