As a child, Robert Clark was infatuated with horses. He would go on to a career painting many of the best racehorses in the world. Former Jockey Club president Dinny Phipps once said that Clark was the only artist in North America he would have paint his horses. He went on to also partner with racing historian and author Edward Bowen on the book A Brush with Greatness: The Art of Racing from 2000 to Triple Crown that profiles 79 Grade 1 winners.
In the book, which documents 15 years of horse racing history, Clark’s artwork colorfully brings to life Bowen’s words. The book is also a chronicle of the artist’s portfolio, which includes every Kentucky Derby winner since Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 up to American Pharoah’s Triple Crown. Owners, trainers and breeders have contributed their comments about the horses commissioned over the years.
In 1982, Clark was right out of school and traveled to Kentucky for the first time. He visited Claiborne Farm where farm manager John Sosby originally told him they didn’t show the horses to artists, but Sosby did take the time to look through the young artist’s portfolio. He put the portfolio down and asked if Clark knew who Richard Stone Reeves was. Clark replied, “Yes, sir, he’s the best equine artist alive today.” Sosby looked Clark in the eye and said, “Your artwork is already better.”
Sosby called in a few men and told them to show him the stallions. Over the next hour, the artist had a private viewing and photo session with the likes Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Spectacular Bid, Danzig and many others. Before leaving, Sosby directed the artist to go to Spendthrift Farm where he saw the other two leaving Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Affirmed.
Clark will host a workshop at his gallery in Georgetown, Kentucky, from May 28 to June 2.
Top: Day Care II, oil on Belgium linen, 44 x 66"
Middle: Gun Runner, oil on Belgium linen, 22 x 28"
Left: Shanghai Bobby, oil on Belgium linen, 24 x 30"