Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The story behind The Straw Ride

The Straw Ride

This is a 9 x 11 casein study of a very large oil painting by British artist Lucy Kemp-Welch, (1869-1958). In my version the colors are punched up a bit more than the original….its just my way… I also get a sense of urgency and feel the fires burning in the bellies of the galloping horses.
Caseins don’t necessarily have to be framed under glass but this one is and it looks like a watercolor because of the transparent washes used.
Obviously I have strong feelings about this painting by Welch. She’s captured th
e excitement and high spirits of a training scene in which women break horses to be used by the British Army during World War I. Women weren’t allowed to go into battle in those days so they supported troops and contributed to the war effort by performing many tough jobs at home that were typically done by men. The relaxed demeanor of the woman rider Welch depicted demonstrates that she is calm and in complete control of her mount and the one she’s ponying beside her. I’ve had my own horses and believe me this isn't easy. The young woman looks like she’s enjoying the ride. It’s a great tribute to these unsung heroes of that war.
I’ve often thought this image may be a powerful allegory for Welch’s life and those of other talented women artists of that day. She was a gifted and extremely accomplished painter…way ahead of her time. Her technical skills far surpassed many of the men who were members of the Royal Academy of Art and although she exhibited there, she was never accepted into the fold, even as an associate member….
It must have been a bitter blow…. but it never stopped her from doing what she loved. She went on to become a member of the prestigious Pastel Society of Great Britain and the first president of the Society of Animal Painters. She was awarded the Bronze medal at the Paris Salon in 1921 and the Silver medal the following year.
Yep...this one’s for Lucy.

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