'This is a remarkable painting as it truly captures the speed of the Thoroughbreds'
Tattenham Corner—The Epsom Derby, (about 1930s), by Gilbert Holiday (1879–1937), 15in by 24½in, Collection: Andrew Balding
Andrew Balding says:
This is a remarkable painting as it truly captures the speed of the Thoroughbreds as they hurtle into the home straight of the world’s most famous horserace at Epsom. It was painted before photography could have created a similar image and the artist has managed to conjure
a sense of the colour and atmosphere that are also such a huge part of the great event.
Andrew Balding is a leading Flat trainer and the third-generation proprietor of Park House Stables, Kingsclere, Hampshire.
John McEwen comments on Tattenham Corner—The Epsom Derby:
Charles Gilbert Joseph Holiday was familiarly known as Gilbert or ‘GS’. He was the son of Sir Frederick Holiday, of the Indian Civil Service, and nephew of Henry Holiday, the stained-glass designer. Born and raised in St John’s Wood, Holiday’s earliest encounter with horses was watching the Royal Horse Artillery on exercise from its nearby barracks. After public school, he trained at the Royal Academy Schools. His first commissions were for The Graphic, The Tatler and The Illustrated London News. He shared a studio with Lionel Edwards (1878–1966), who remembered his friend’s untidiness and incessant smoking.
In the First World War, Holiday, a keen horseman, served on the Western Front as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. He continued to paint and his equestrian pictures found ready acceptance in army messes. Indeed, he’s best remembered for equestrian military pictures. Edwards said no one painted a horse in action better and C. J. Payne (‘Snaffles’) (1884–1967) considered Holiday’s gun-team pictures ‘beyond criticism’.
Holiday painted equestrian scenes of every sort, not least sporting pictures of hunting and racing. Tattenham Corner, the crucial bend into the finishing straight of the Epsom Derby — first run in 1779; not the oldest classic, but the world’s most legendary horse race — is notorious as the site of the Suffragette Emily Davison’s suicide, when she threw herself under George V’s horse, Anmer, in the 1913 running.
The Derby, held on the first Wednesday or Thursday of June, used to be the focal point of London’s midsummer holiday. Sadly, diminishing attendance has seen the ‘Blue Riband’ demoted since 1995 to Saturday.
'I like the idealised realism — in the same way as Munnings painted every horse to look conformationally perfect'
'For me, it’s like a prayer. Or a meditation.'