Published: March 2, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Central Mass Auctions
WORCESTER, MASS. – Central Mass Auctions presented more than 150 paintings and other artwork from the estate of Fay Moore, a well-known equestrian artist, on February 17. Best known for her thoroughbred racing scenes, she had a studio in the National Arts Club in Manhattan’s Grammercy Park district. Moore, who died in August 2017, was arguably the first woman to get credit for painting sports, an interest that began in the 1960s when she attended the races in Saratoga, N.Y.
She studied art with Henry Hensche, attended the Cambridge School at Weston, Mass., Bennington College in Vermont and the Yale Drama School in set design. She had been a member of the Pastel Society of America and chairperson of the board of the American Academy of Equine Art.
Her apex was not, however, an equestrian painting but a tender, two-sided pair of portraits of Ines “Noz” Hogan (1895-1973), a Provincetown children’s author, on one side and the other side a self-portrait of Moore herself. The 20-by-24-inch oil on board sold for $2,950, finishing by a nose past the previous listed record of $2,500 for a Moore painting, according to Central Mass Auctions’ auctioneer and appraiser Wayne Tuiskula.
“It was a low-volume sale,” said Tuiskula, which nevertheless attracted about 140 registered bidders, representing private collectors and dealers on the firm’s online bidding platform. He said he was unaware of any institutional interest in the art.
The International Museum of the Horse in Lexington, Ky., mounted an exhibition in 2009 in which Moore collaborated, an exhibit where the artist’s use of color and movement conveyed the excitement of the horse in sport.
Moore started going to sporting events with her second husband Roger Donaghue, who she married in 1964 after having been introduced to him by the author Norman Mailer. She began to sketch football, boxing and hockey figures, as well as horse racing scenes around the New York tracks and it was in this arena that Moore found her most compelling subject. She is best known for her thoroughbred racing scenes, largely drawn from Versailles where she gathered subject material and taught pastel techniques to groups of artists. In the 1960s, when she began attending the races in Saratoga, N.Y., few, if any, women artists were known for portraying sports. “I experienced it as a fabulous landscape of horses with brilliant colors provided by the jockey silks,” Moore is quoted as saying. “A horse is like a wonderful nude, but with a horse, you see how the muscles work so much more than with a human nude.”
A total of 19 bids took an untitled painting of a woman in a white dress with what looks to be a green parakeet either landing or preparing to fly away from her right hand to $1,003. The oil on canvas was signed and above the top left stretcher was affixed a label reading “Property of Mrs Charles W. Moore” with the return address of the Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, Mo.
A country landscape titled “Pollards (Old Versailles Road) Kentucky” sold for $944 on 20 bids. The pastel on panel depicting a procession of trees cut back to the trunk to promote the growth of a dense head of foliage won the 2000 Allied Artist of America Award and measured 24 inches square. On the back stretcher was a Heike Pickett Gallery label, Versailles, Ky., where Moore is among the 35 or so artists that the gallery represents. Its website says the firm has closed both of locations in Lexington and Versailles but will continue representing its stable of artists and providing art advisory, curatorial, consultations and appraisal services.
Fetching $826 was an oil on canvas in the sweet spot of Moore’s oeuvre – an equestrian oil on canvas titled “History of the Standardbred 1/3.” A painterly pantheon of the category’s greats, the 36-by-48-inch painting includes Greyhound, “King of the Trotters,” Messenger, the “founding father” of the standardbred horse (1780), a grey thoroughbred imported into the United States just after the American Revolution, and Goldsmith Maid, a prominent Standardbred racemare in the 1870s that was called the “Queen of the Trotters” and had a harness racing career that spanned 13 years.
The “2001 Horse of the Year – Skip Away” was celebrated with a pastel on canvas that shows the grey thoroughbred and red-and-yellow-clad jockey finishing first among the pack. The painting finished $708. Skip Away was a gray thoroughbred racehorse, named America’s Champion 3-Year Old Male in 1996 and twice (1997, 1998) named America’s Champion Handicap Horse. He was also US Horse of the Year in 1998. He won ten Grade 1 races for $9,616,360 in prize money, according to Wikipedia. At age 17, Skip Away died of an apparent heart attack in his paddock on May 14, 2010, at Hopewell Farm in Midway, Ky., and is interred at Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Ky.
“Five Entries,” a pastel on panel, 34 by 34 inches, framed, and showing jockeys and racehorses lining up to compete, realized $649. Bringing the same amount was “First Breeder’s Cup,” another pastel, documenting the 1986 event, slightly smaller at 30 by 30 inches.
Rounding out the highlights among the more than 150 lots was an oil on board, “Start on Turf,” measuring 34½ by 34 inches and dated 1978, which was bid to $590.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The house’s next timed online auction will be conducted in May, a diverse sale with more art, a coin collection, silver, sports cards and jewelry. For information, 508-612-6111 or www.centralmassauctions.com.
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