My favourite painting: Mick Channon

The racehorse trainer Mick Channon chooses a painting of a horse.

Mick Channon on Pneumatic by Juliet McLeod

‘Pneumatic was owned by Bill Wightman and was buried under the pristine front lawn of his stables; the portrait now hangs front and centre in my owners’ lounge. Bill was the man I turned to when I bought my first horse, Cathy Jane, and he trained her with great success. He was old-fashioned, but generous with his time and something of a father figure to me.

‘He insisted patience was required for training horses, a belief he quickly forgot when I became his trainer! This painting represents so much. It looks like something Stubbs could have done. Bill gave it to me at his 90th birthday party and the note that accompanied it meant almost as much as the gift itself.

‘The old boy stayed on to finish his race at the age of 95. I wouldn’t have a clue about art, but I love looking at Bill’s painting of Pneumatic. That’s art in itself, isn’t it?’

Mick Channon, a former professional footballer, is now a racehorse trainer.

Charlotte Mullins comments on Pneumatic

Juliet McCloud’s painting of the racehorse Pneumatic is in the tradition of the great 18th-century horse painter George Stubbs. Buckinghamshire-born McLeod studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and with Lynwood Palmer, considered by many to be the finest equine artist of his generation. Palmer advised her to study Stubbs’s treatise The Anatomy of the Horse and to keep riding, to understand how a horse moves, internally and externally.

A lifetime dedicated to equine art ensued and McLeod painted some of the greatest winners of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, including Petite Etoile, Never Say Die and Mill Reef. As Stubbs did, she tried to capture the character of each horse she painted, as well as its anatomical likeness.

Trainer and owner Bill Wightman bought the yearling Pneumatic for 65gns in 1952. The horse went on to win 17 races and lived at Wightman’s Hampshire farm until his death at the age of 30.

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In this painting, McLeod portrays Pneumatic as if he were a mirror image of Stubbs’s Lustre, Held by a Groom (about 1762), now in the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. The horses share many similar traits: pricked ears, wide-open eyes alert to the world, gleaming flanks and lean, glossy fetlocks.

Pneumatic stands in a large airy stable, with natural light illuminating the horse’s mane and muzzle. Over the manger, a pale-blue blanket monogrammed with a ‘W’ marks Pneumatic out as a Bill Wightman champion.

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