Liz Taylor’s racing legacy: Daughter’s sculptures feature in art auction

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John Skeaping's Neck and Neck is among the 11 lots being offered for auction by Dreweatts on behalf of racing pioneer Nick Robinson.
John Skeaping’s Neck and Neck is among the 11 lots being offered for auction by Dreweatts on behalf of racing pioneer Nick Robinson. © Dreweatts

Three equine sculptures by the daughter of actress Elizabeth Taylor and a collection of horse racing paintings are going under the hammer at an auction in Britain next month.

Elizabeth Taylor, as Velvet Brown, on the second horse from left at the start of the race in National Velvet.
Elizabeth Taylor, as Velvet Brown, on the second horse from left at the start of the race in National Velvet (1944).

The paintings and sculptures from the collection of racing industry pioneer Nick Robinson are being offered at auction in Dreweatts Interiors sale on June 8, 2021. Robinson was a founder of Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds, a pioneer of racehorse syndicates in the 1980s and publisher of racing books and magazines.

Pieces by several leading equestrian artists are featured in the collection, including two pastel works by British equine artist John Skeaping (1901-1980) and three sculptures by Liza Todd-Tivey (b. 1957), the daughter of National Velvet star Liz Taylor and producer Mike Todd. Taylor’s breakout role was in 1944, at the age of 12, as Velvet Brown, who rode in England’s Grand National Steeplechase.

Alongside Skeaping, Todd-Tivey was the only modern sculptor to be included in John Fairley’s influential book, Great Racehorses in Art, first published in 1984.

Nashua and Clem, by Liza Todd-Tivey, is being sold at auction on June 8, 2021.
Nashua and Clem, by Liza Todd-Tivey, is being sold at auction on June 8, 2021. © Dreweatts

Todd-Tivey has completed many private commissions of wildlife sculpture and other racehorses. The first of her sculptures on offer depicts the US thoroughbred Nashua and his groom of 26 years, Clem Brooks. This intimate and informal portrayal is the result of a 1982 commemorative commission on larger scale by Leslie Combs II, founder of Spendthrift Farm, Kentucky, where Nashua spent his final years. Spendthrift Farm allowed casting of a limited edition of 75 bronzes on a smaller scale, of which this is one. Nashua and Clem is estimated to fetch between £600 and £900.

Northern Dancer was crafted by Liza Todd-Tivey in about 1991. It is being sold at auction on June 8, 2021.
Northern Dancer was crafted by Liza Todd-Tivey in 1991. It is being sold at auction on June 8, 2021. © Dreweatts

The second of her bronzes is a striking colour patinated bronze model of the Canadian racehorse Northern Dancer created in 1991, as a private commission for the horse’s owner. Set on a plinth, the work captures the essence of the horse’s strength and beauty. Northern Dancer is estimated to fetch between £500 and £800.

Liza Todd-Tivey created this patinated bronze model of Seattle Slew in about 1985.
Liza Todd-Tivey created this patinated bronze model of Seattle Slew in 1985. © Dreweatts

The third bronze is of the well-known thoroughbred Seattle Slew, winner of the US Triple Crown in 1977. This work in patinated bronze was created in 1985 and is about 41cm tall 48 cm wide. Todd-Tivey also cast a large-scale model for three Chimney’s Farm in Kentucky, where Seattle Slew spent the last decades of his life. This smaller version is estimated to fetch between £500 and £800.

Amongst the paintings in the sale are two works by celebrated equine artist John Skeaping (1901-1980), whose works are highly sought-after.

All Out for The Post by John Skeaping
All Out for The Post by John Skeaping (1901-1980) is estimated to fetch between £800 and £1200 at the Dreweatts auction on June 8. © Dreweatts

The first is titled Neck and Neck (est  £600-800). It captures the frenzy of a race in colourful oils and is as contemporary as when it was created This work was exhibited in London by J.L.W. Bird in their Spring Exhibition from March-April 1981.

The second work, a pastel titled All out for the post encapsulates the fast-paced movement of the horse and jockeys, in a vast array of skilled strokes and shades. It is estimated to fetch between £800 and £1200.

No. 2 First, Second, Third, by Michael Lyne
No. 2 First, Second, Third, by Michael Lyne (1912-1989) is estimated to fetch between £1000 and £2000. © Dreweatts

The artist Michael Lyne is also represented in the sale. A celebrated artist with a passion for country pursuits, he began his art commissions while still at art school, where he frequently painted for the Masters of two local packs of hounds, Captain H.A. Clive and Lt Col Cyril Heber-Percy. His later patrons included the Duke of Beaufort, Lord Knutsford and General Sir Willoughby Norrie.

In the 1930s Lyne illustrated many books on hunting and after the war resumed his artistic career with fervour, portraying predominantly horses and hunting dogs, in a backdrop of English country landscapes and settings. He regularly exhibited in London and his paintings can be found in many collections around the world. No. 2 First, Second, Third is a wonderful example of his work. Created in oils, it is estimated to fetch between £1000 and £2000.

Peter Biegel's The Gamest of the Game, Crisp, Aintree, 1973.
Peter Biegel’s The Gamest of the Game, Crisp, Aintree, 1973. © Dreweatts

Three works by esteemed racing and hunting artist Peter Biegel (1913-1988) are being offered in the sale. The pencil and watercolour works, complete with his annotations, show his distinctive working style and his process in capturing horses and their jockeys in various stages and positions in the race. The three works are titled The Gamest of the Game, Crisp, Aintree, 1973, Down to the Start, and 23rd Fence, Aintree. They are each estimated to fetch between £400 and £600.

Highfield Stables at Bedford House Stables, Newmarket by Peter Williams (1934-2018).
Highfield Stables at Bedford House Stables, Newmarket by Peter Williams (1934-2018). © Dreweatts

Equestrian artist Peter Williams (1934-2018) was a recognised figure in the paddocks of most of the top racetracks around the world. A chance encounter with US equine painter Richard Stone Reeves resulted in a commission to paint racing scenes and instigated a prolific artistic career. New Zealand-born, Williams was based in Kentucky in the US and became the unofficial artist in residence at Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Saratoga Racecourses.

The two works by Williams in the sale include Highfield Stables at Bedford House Stables, Newmarket,  and Churchill Downs Racecourse, Kentucky, USA. Both are estimated at £200 to £300.

Bedford House and Stables were originally within the same small estate as Bedford Lodge which was built around 1820 for the sixth Duke of Bedford as his Newmarket residence. After the Duke’s death in 1861, the whole estate was purchased by Sir Joseph Hawley, who sold it on to the Duke’s former trainer, William Butler. Butler demolished Bedford Lodge’s original stabling and sold the Lodge to Joe Dawson who built the main range of stables adjoining it (now Highfield Stables) in 1864.

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