My Favourite Painting: Martin St Quinton

The chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse picks a classic image from the equestrian world.

Martin St Quinton chooses Showing at Tattersalls by Robert Polhill Bevan

‘In view of my racing involvements, it’s perhaps no surprise that my favourite painting depicts a groom trotting up a racehorse at Tattersalls sales in Knightsbridge Green, London. I love the way Bevan has the horse front and centre.

‘The characters who attend horse sales are invariably inscrutable and, picturing them from behind, Bevan gives us no clue as to their impressions of the horse they are viewing. The use of block colours is unusual to me. The horse is nearly purple and the bidders are grey, black or blue.

‘You can almost hear the sound of the hooves clattering on the brick tiled floor and the pre-sale tension is palpable.’

Martin St Quinton is chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse and Gloucester Rugby

Charlotte Mullins on Showing at Tattersalls and Robert Polhill Bevan

Robert Bevan was a founder member of the Camden Town Group, which centred around Walter Sickert and was founded in 1911. The aim of the group was to paint honestly and objectively, taking everyday domestic scenes or city views as their subject matter. Sickert suggested to Bevan that he concentrate on painting horse sales and cab yards. By 1914, the group fragmented and Bevan created the Cumberland Market Group with fellow Camden Town painters Harold Gilman and Charles Ginner. Bevan had a particular affinity with painting horses, then still used for transportation in London, and his Cumberland Market studio overlooked Camden’s hay market.

Bevan had trained at the Académie Julian in Paris, then travelled to Brittany in the 1890s, where he met Paul Gauguin. The warm colours of Gauguin infused his palette, whereas his early style was grounded in Pointillism. By 1919, at about the time Showing at Tattersalls was painted, Bevan had returned to a solidity of form. There’s a lovely articulation of movement between the legs of the black horse and the groom putting him through his paces.

The pink-brick yard, pale-yellow stable walls and foreshortened bay horse give this work a warmth that nods to Bevan’s love of French painting. The shadow under the black horse is pale lilac and brings to mind the soft atmospheres of Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro’s London paintings. Pissarro’s eldest son, Lucien, had been part of the Camden Town Group and Bevan remained interested in French art throughout his life.

Recommended videos for you