Inspired by Art: How One Foxhunter Came to Sport
Contributed by: Ruth Ellison Robins
Written by: J. Harris Anderson
Some modern-day foxhunters were born to the sport. Others, perhaps most, did not grow up in a horse-centered world where riding to hounds was practiced from one generation to the next. For them, the allure of the sport grew from a different source.
For the late David Rosenthal, that source was a book of sketches by Paul Brown.
David was 12 when he came upon a volume titled “Black and White by Brown.” The book contained sketches of horses and riders by the noted American artist and illustrator. It was the first book David recalls purchasing with his own money. The pen-and-ink images so captivated the young Rosenthal that he knew he would one day learn to ride and follow hounds, just like the daring hunters in Paul Brown’s exciting world.
“It was definitely a matter of aesthetics,” Rosenthal said. “I knew nothing about the sheer terror and the excitement of riding and hunting. My motivation was based solely on Paul Brown’s sketches.”
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, and a city kid by the cruel accident of birth, it was forty years before David was able to bring that desire to life. At the age of 52 his good friend Kay Blassic, Joint-Master of Casanova Hunt, gave him the chance to live out his dream. With Kay’s tutelage, he learned to ride and spent the next 15 years fulfilling his boyhood ambition of riding to hounds—the embodiment of one of Paul Brown’s gentlemen hunters in the flesh.
The second exhibit in the Museum’s American Sporting Artists Series, presented in 2001, featured the works of Paul Brown (1893-1958). Brown’s images are best known for the way they depict action, whether in the hunt field, on the race course, or polo field. Horses and riders do not pose in a frozen frame. Muscles strain, hats ﬂy, riders tumble. Those who have seen Brown’s art can understand the impression his sketches made on a 12-year-old boy from Baltimore.
Perhaps another youngster, seeing the art preserved and presented by the MHHNA, will feel the same thrilling inspiration that fueled the imagination of David Rosenthal. Hopefully, though, he or she won’t have to wait another 40 years to experience the excitement of riding to hounds.