A Decade Afield: Celebrating 10 Years of NSLM’s Museum

Written by Dulcy B. Hooper 

For visitors of Middleburg’s National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM), the past 10 years have offered a delightful series of memorable exhibitions.

When it opened its doors to the public in 2011, the museum’s inaugural exhibition was entitled Afield in America: 400 Years of Animal & Sporting Art. It featured over 100 works, all of which were on loan from major institutions and private collections from across the country. 

Henri DeLattre (French, 1801–1876) The Race Between Mac and Zachary Taylor at Hunting Park Course, Philadelphia, July 18, 1849, 1850, oil on canvas, 27 3/4 x 43 3/4 inches, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. F. Turner Reuter, Jr. and Anonymous, 2021. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum.

Built in 1804, the historic house which would become the museum was bequeathed to the National Sporting Library (NSL) by George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. It was then renovated and expanded in the two years prior to the museum’s opening with the addition of 10 small-to-medium galleries, two hall galleries, and an extended section boasting two large galleries. All the artworks installed in the main entry space and in the second-floor galleries were acquired through donations and bequests subsequent to the museum’s opening. According to Claudia Pfeiffer, the NSLM’s deputy director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. curator, when the permanent collection was initially installed in 2012, the museumwas only able to fill a quarter of the galleries.

At the time, initial plans for the museum focused on developing two loan exhibitions per year for the two large galleries and featuring the permanent collection in Vine Hill’s historic wing. “Those traveling exhibitions allowed a buffer of time for us to research, develop, and curate the museum’s own topics,” Pfeiffer says.

A Decade Afield features over 120 18th- to 20th-century American, British, and Continental artworks and pays tribute to the 10-year growth of the museum’s permanent collection. It is divided into 10 sections representing the “broadening scope and depth of NSLM’s holdings.” Some of the museum’s earliest pieces can be found in the Federal-style galleries in the Vine Hill mansion wing.

Left: Gallery wall. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum. Middle: Herbert Haseltine (American, 1877–1962) Portuguese Rejoneadores, a pair, modeled 1921, gilded bronze, 12 3/4 x 11 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum. Right: The NSLM on a beautiful summer’s day. Photo by Kaitlin Hill.

“It was a great opportunity to thematically organize the NSLM’s art collection and showcase the works with bold color choices for the walls,” Pfeiffer emphasizes. “The goal was to create an impactful visual experience for first-time and returning visitors alike and to give an overview of how the collection came to be and grew to what it is today.” The museum was closed for the month of May in preparation for the exhibition.

Today, the NSLM’s collection includes 1,445 objects encompassing a wide range of mediums including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, trophies, weathervanes, and dog collars.

Left: John Frederick Herring, Sr. (English, 1795–1865) Going to the Fair, 1841, oil on canvas, 57 1/2 x 95 inches, Gift of Manuel H. and Mary Johnson, 2021. Right: Alfred Duke (British, 1863–1905) Game and Gun Dogs, late 19th/early 20th century, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 1/8 inches, Gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars, 2022. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum.

The beginning section of the exhibit, entitled “The Start,” creates an “aesthetic reminiscent of a country house, its inhabitants, and the country way of life,” Pfeiffer explains. Many of the best pieces in this section are portraits of key figures instrumental in expanding the library. The next section, “Setting the Course,” features two galleries dedicated to Felicia Warburg Rogan and honors her donation of 15 important British sporting art paintings. According to Pfeiffer, those works “set the bar for the NSLM’s standards moving forward and brought in iconic paintings by John Emms and Alfred James Munnings.”

The section “Mixed Bag” is an eclectic assortment of sporting works including a 41-inch English sterling silver model of a coach, NSLM’s earliest artwork, “Horse in a Landscape” by Abraham von Calraet, and paintings by Franklin Brooke Voss.  

The remainder of the exhibition highlights the subsequent growth of the collection with such themes as “Spurring On,” “On Point,” “Casting the Line,” “Tally Ho!,” “The Menagerie,” “A Record Place,” and “Winners Circle.”  

As for their next 10 years?  “We look forward to what the future holds,” Pfeiffer says.

A Decade Afield will be on view through September 18, 2022. ML

This article first appeared in the July 2022 Issue.

2021 NSLM Polo Classic Presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™ a Big Success

MIDDLEBURG, VA – The 2021 NSLM Polo Classic was held Sunday, September 12, at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA. Spectators gathered to watch two prestigious matches, The Founders Cup, featuring TTR | Sotheby’s International Realty vs. National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM), and the Mars Cup, featuring Holman Hall vs. NetJets. Celebrity polo player and Ralph Lauren model Nacho Figueras returned to the field, as did Work to Ride alum Daymar Rosser.

Proceeds from the NSLM Polo Classic presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™ benefit the NSLM in its mission to preserve, promote, and share the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports, as well as to advocate for the conservation of open space necessary for these pursuits. A portion of the proceeds will also be donated to local food banks in support of community members who have suffered loss and hardship the past year-and-a-half, and Work to Ride

From left to right: Nacho Figueras, Wil Ballhaus, Andy Hertneky, and Bill Ballhaus battle it out in the Mars Cup. Photo credit: Erin Gilmore Photography.

The Founders Cup kicked off at 11:00 am with a ceremonial ball toss by NSLM Executive Director Elizabeth von Hassell. Annalise Phillips, Laura Farrell, Tano Vial, and Doug Barnes played for TTR | Sotheby’s International Realty while Debbie Nash, Bill Ballhaus, Tolito Fernández Ocampo (the highest rated polo player in Virginia), and Jonas Larguia rode on the NSLM team, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Calder. A well-matched game, after four chukkas the teams were locked in a 5-5 tie. The win went to TTR | Sotheby’s on account of their handicap. Phillips was awarded Most Valuable Player sponsored by Securiport, LLC., while the Best Playing Pony award, sponsored by BUCKEYE™ Nutrition and Tri-County Feeds, Fashions, Finds, went to Barnes’s Valentino.

After the first Dog Divot Stomp sponsored by NUTRO™, the Orange County Hounds, led by Hunstman, Reg Spreadborough, took to the field in NSLM Polo Classic tradition.

The six-chukker Mars Cup took place in the afternoon after a ceremonial ball toss by President of Mars Petcare North America Ikdeep Singh. Andy Hertneky, Daymar Rosser, Nacho Figueras, and Hilario Figueras played on the NetJets team, facing off against Wil Ballhaus, Bill Ballhaus, Tolito Fernández Ocampo, and Lucio Ocampo for Holman Hall, sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Manuel H. Johnson. The Mars Cup was a family affair; both teams featured a father-and-son duo, Nacho and Hilario Figueras for NetJets and Wil and Bill Ballhaus for Holman Hall, and brothers Tolito and Lucio Ocampo played together on the Holman Hall team. The latter emerged victorious with a final score of 8-9. W. Ballhaus was awarded Most Valuable Player sponsored by Securiport, LLC. The Best Playing Pony award, sponsored by BUCKEYE™ Nutrition and Tri-County Feeds, Fashions, Finds, was Ventura, a chestnut named  Taruha, ridden by Andy Hertneky.

A “Best Dressed Dog” winner Coco Chanel and her owner Ineke Kreeger receive their prize from Mars Petcare North America President Ikdeep Singh. Photo credit: Imagine Photography.

The next NSLM Polo Classic will be held Sunday, September 11, 2022.

The National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) is located in Middleburg, Virginia, the heart of beautiful horse country. Founded in 1954, the renowned research Library and fine art Museum highlight the rich heritage and tradition of country pursuits. Angling, horsemanship, shooting, steeplechasing, foxhunting, flat racing, polo, coaching, and wildlife are among the subjects one can explore in the organization’s general stacks, rare book holdings, archives, and art collection. The NSLM offers a wide variety of educational programs, exhibitions, and family activities throughout the year, and is open to researchers and the public. There is no admission fee to the Library. The Museum charges $10 for adults, $8 for youths (age 13-18), and $8 for seniors. NSLM members and children age 12 and under are admitted free of charge. Library & Museum hours are Thursday–Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

NSLM Announces New Executive Director

The National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) in Middleburg has appointed Elizabeth von Hassell as executive director. She will join NSLM this month.

“We are thrilled to welcome Elizabeth as NSLM’s Executive Director,” said Manuel H. Johnson, chairman of the NSLM Board of Directors. “She brings a wide range of experience to our organization. We are excited to begin working with her to grow NSLM.”

The National Sporting Library & Museum is in the heart of beautiful hunt country. Founded in 1954, the renowned research library, and fine art museum highlights the rich heritage and tradition of country pursuits. It offers a wide variety of educational programs, exhibitions, and family activities throughout the year, and is open to researchers and the general public. Visitors can explore many subjects including angling, horsemanship, shooting, steeplechasing, foxhunting, flat racing, polo, coaching, and wildlife in the organization’s general stacks, rare book holdings, archives, and art collection.

Von Hassell previously served as the director of development at James Madison’s Montpelier. In that capacity, she worked closely with Montpelier’s leadership on conservation and preservation projects.

“The Montpelier Foundation, stewards of the home and legacy of James Madison, with great regret announced the departure of Elizabeth von Hassell who has been recruited to take over leadership of the National Sporting Library & Museum,” said Kat Imhoff, president and CEO of James Madison’s Montpelier. “During her tenure, Montpelier has raised over $45 million but as important has seen an increase in membership and engagement due to her drive and dedication. Elizabeth will always be considered a member of the Montpelier family but her energy, enthusiasm and plain out-right fun spirit will be missed on a daily basis by all. We look forward however to partnering with the NSLM to promote conservation and other opportunities to support their and our work in the Piedmont.”

Before joining Montpelier in 2014, von Hassell worked at Shenandoah University and spent 25 years living and working between New York City and Clarke County, Virginia as a vice president of marketing in the pharmaceutical industry. Born in Winchester, Virginia, she is a graduate of Hollins University. An avid outdoor person, she enjoys riding, hiking, canoeing, fishing, shooting, and tennis.

Von Hassell is currently on the board of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and has served on the boards of the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, Millwood Country Club, Long Branch Historic Plantation, Old Chatham Hunt Club, and the Lost Brigade Wounded Warrior Foundation.

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life. 

The National Sporting Library & Museum Sixth Annual Polo Classic Fundraiser

The first four fabulous polo players have been named for the National Sporting Library & Museum’s sixth annual Polo Classic fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 11 at Great Meadow in The Plains. This year, Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras, John Gobin, Bill Ballhaus and David Greenhill will compete and additional polo players are being secured.

Born in Argentina in 1977, Nacho Figueras developed a love of horses and the game of polo by the age of nine. When he was 17, he began his professional polo career playing for the very successful White Birch high-goal team in the U.S. From there he has played in Spain, England, Argentina, Brazil, Singapore and the Philippines.

Figueras, who has appeared in many Polo Black advertisements for Ralph Lauren, plays for the Black Watch Polo Team in Bridgehampton, New York and Palm Beach. In the U.S. offseason, he returns to his Argentine ranch in spring and fall, where he has Cria Yatay, a polo pony breeding business.

Many in Middleburg are familiar with John S. Gobin who grew up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. He began playing arena polo in interscholastic competitions at the age of 15. From the age of 17-19, he trained to become a polo player in Argentina.

Gobin began by playing with polo patron Geoffrey Kent, the founder of Abercrombie & Kent, and later played on the Budweiser Polo Team. He won the Westchester Cup alongside Adam Snow, Owen Rinehart and Robert E. Walton at the Guards Polo Club in England in 1992. He won the Camacho Cup on the American team against Mexico in 2009 and has competed on Team USA in the 2011 Polo World Championships (World Cup) against Argentina.

Gobin has also played on the Duck Hill Polo Team at the Aiken Polo Club in Aiken, South Carolina, and has won the U.S. Arena Championships four times. He has been the manager of the Great Meadow Polo Club in The Plains since 2007.

Bill Ballhaus is a third-generation aerospace engineer, and has spent the last 15 years leading both publicly-traded and privately-owned technology-oriented businesses. In 2008, Forbes named him as one of America’s 21 most powerful CEOs age 40 and under.

Ballhaus began playing polo in 2011 and has since played year round in Virginia, Aiken, Wellington, and Argentina. He competed in the 2015 Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup, the Veuve Cliquot Polo Classic in 2014 and 2015, and the National Sporting Library & Museum’s Polo Classic fundraiser in 2012 and 2013. Ballhaus and his wife, Darrin own and operate Beverly Equestrian, a full-service multi-disciplinary equestrian facility near The Plains.

David Greenhill is the co-owner and president of SD (Satcom Direct), serving business aviation and military government markets worldwide. Greenhill attended the United States Air Force Academy, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a master’s in philosophy and theology from Yale University.

Originally from North Carolina, Greenhill has called Virginia home for over 15 years. An entrepreneur, he owns Greenhill Winery & Vineyards in Middleburg, home to internationally acclaimed wines, as well as Middleburg Life. Greenhill is a member of Great Meadow, Banbury Cross, and Palm City Polo Clubs, and has trained all over the world including Dubai, Geneva, Paris, and London.

According to NSLM Executive Director Melanie Mathewes, “our polo fundraiser is a celebration of sporting culture and an opportunity for sporting enthusiasts to experience a very exciting part of the NSLM mission.”

Proceeds from the Polo Classic support the NSLM’s mission of preserving, promoting, and sharing the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports.

(Tickets for the NSLM’s sixth annual Polo Classic are available at NationalSporting.org, or by calling the NSLM at 540-687-6542 ext. 24.)