2nd September – 30th October 2015
Every year the Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery likes to join in with the St Leger Festival and this year is no different. ‘The Art of Racing’ brings together some of the finest racing images in the collection of Doncaster Heritage Services. In addition nine Doncaster Gold Cups are displayed in the Museum – with the oldest dating from only three years after the first St Leger was run in 1776.
Horseracing has long been part of the lifeblood of Doncaster, echoing to the pounding of hooves on the turf. The faces and costumes may change, but fundamentally it is a direct connection to those sporting ancestors who devised the world’s first classic horserace – the St Leger.
Such is the colour, excitement and activity that surrounds a race meeting that artists have often struggled to capture the essence of the scene. One early artist who worked hard to capture the scene was Thomas Rowlandson. Around 1800 Rowlandson produced four watercolours showing the various stages of an early St Leger meeting from arrival to what seems to be mildly drunken behaviour at the end (knowing the drinking habits of the period I am sure people were a lot ‘happier’ than he portrayed them!)
Included in the exhibition alongside the Rowlandsons will be our very popular portrayal of the ‘Finish of the 1931 St Leger’ by Charles Walter Simpson. The painting captures beautifully the crowds and the excitement on the winning line as autumn gallops in on the tail of the Leger winner – as the popular expression goes.
Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery, Chequer Road, Doncaster, DN1 2AE
And no exhibition of the St Leger meeting would be complete without J.F. Herring’s ‘Finish of the 1827 Gold Cup’. This wonderful image sees the horses (all painted straight legged at this time) with their necks out, straining for the line, whilst the jockeys sit upright in the saddle decked out in the owners’ colours.