Important American and European Paintings — June 12, 2012 Auction Results

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Lot 57A

57A: George Ford Morris (American, 1873-1960)
57A: George Ford Morris (American, 1873-1960)
57A: George Ford Morris (American, 1873-1960)

George Ford Morris (American, 1873-1960)

George Ford Morris (American, 1873-1960)

Byerly Turk, circa 1943

Oil on board
23 1/2 x 30 inches

Collection of the artist, 1943
Thence by descent to Mrs. Patricia Morris Davis, daughter of the artist;
Purchased by the current owner from the above, circa 1981

Washington County Museum of Fine Art, Hagerstown, MD

Estimate: $8,000-12,000

Other Notes: George Ford Morris was known for painting famous horses, their owners and their riders. He was largely influenced by artists such as George Stubbs and Benjamin Marshall, and strove to elevate the painting of animal portraits and capture the horse’s true and innate characteristics. He wrote in Portraitures of Horses, an autobiographical treatise on his work that “[artists who portray horses] seem to think that a ground to stand on and a blank space, or distant trees and a straight line fence for a background, are all that an animal portrait needs to perfect it. That may be allowable as far as commercial or advertising pictures are concerned, but the total composition of a painting of a finely bred animal can be such, in both color and arrangement, as to make it a work of art and thing of beauty to all that behold it, suitable for hanging on the walls in homes of culture and discrimination.”

This painting, Byerly Turk, depicts the Byerly Turk breed, one of three horses bred to create the modern day thoroughbred. “Imported into England in 1618, his name (Byerly Turk) has come down through the ages with those the Darley and Godolphin Arabians, forming the great triumvirate of sires of Oriental blood to which practically all our stocks of good horse flesh trace.” Originating in the east, the horse was first brought to England in the 17th century. Here, Morris captures the animal’s typical characteristics that include the dark hair, an arched neck and the high carriage of the tail. Morris corroborates, “the portraits of these three foundation sires of Oriental blood; the Darley and Godolphin Arabians, and the Byerly Turk, to which practically all of our modern breeds or racing, saddle and light harness stocks of authentic registered breeding can be traced…”

A similar painting of the Byerly Turk, illustrated in Portraitures of Horses, depicts the horse in a similar composition. The painting was commissioned by a private client who specified the animal be depicted without his mane. Morris painted the present work illustrating the mane for his personal collection, which he later gave to his daughter, Mrs. Patricia Morris Davis. The current owner purchased the painting from Mrs. Davis circa 1981.

Morris also painted the two other breeds that brought the modern day thoroughbred into existence. The artist writes that capturing these ancient breeds of horses that were the sires of many modern breeds was one of the most interesting phases of his work.

For further information on the Byerly Turk:

Price Realized: $10,540