By Claudia Pfeiffer, George L. Ohrstrom Jr. curator of art, National Sporting Library & Museum
The oil on canvas painting “Walking Out in Winter,” on extended loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum from a private collection, was painted by sporting artist Jean Bowman (American, 1917-1994) in 1969. The composition depicts one of the racetracks (possibly Charles Town) that began offering winter horse racing in the 1960s. By this time, Bowman was already an internationally recognized equestrian portraitist, having begun her career as an artist and illustrator in the early 1940s.
She counted among her many discerning patrons equestrians such as Queen Elizabeth II, George L. Ohrstrom Jr., Paul Mellon and John Hay Whitney. First based out of Maryland, Bowman then moved to White Post and later to Unison. She was revered in the region for her abilities as a realist painter of horses and people and was a founding member of the American Academy of Equine Art, established in Middleburg in 1980 and today headquartered at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
In attaining success as a female artist in a male-dominated field, Bowman inspired a generation of painters in the genre. She was prolific, and her paintings were featured on the cover of “The Chronicle of the Horse” more than 60 times by 1994, when she died tragically in an airplane accident. Several of her works are currently on view at the National Sporting Library & Museum in “The Chronicle of the Horse in Art” exhibition through March 26, 2017, highlighting the important role she played in sporting art and the changing aesthetic of the “Chronicle of the Horse” covers over the course of her career. ML
Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917-1994)
“Walking Out in Winter,” 1969
oil on canvas
22 x 30 1/4 inches
Private Collection, on long-term loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum
© John H. Pentecost