By Lauren R. Giannini
“My father put a paintbrush in my hand when I was two,” recalls Andrea Kent. “He was a landscape and wildlife painter, a classically trained European artist. He nurtured me the way that European apprentices were treated and taught me both European and American techniques in his own studio. When I became a teenager, my father sent me to art school in Chicago at the American Academy of Art and the Art Institute.”
Andrea’s lifelong passion for horses began the same time as her painting. She grew up in Lake Forest (IL) and rode to hounds, mentored by Mill Creek Hunt’s Masters of Fox Hounds, William Wood-Prince and Ginevra Hunter (the latter now a member of Orange County Hounds, VA). She got her first horse when she was 12, but her parents didn’t just write checks. They attached strings, which led to more lessons. “My parents told me I had to help support my horse,” says Andrea. “Selling pictures of horses was the only way I knew how to earn money. It made me really focused. I would sometimes go with my father to art shows when I was 12, 13, 14 and sell my own drawings and paintings of horses. I satisfied my parents’ request even though I’m sure I didn’t make anywhere near enough to handle all the bills – vet, farrier, and board – that are part of having a horse.”
The Path Not Taken
Selling paintings helped to determine Andrea’s path after high school. She realized that representational art, at that time, wasn’t very popular in the USA and that collectors were more inclined to invest in modern art. “I disappointed my father by not going into a career as a commercial artist,” says Andrea. “It was some years before I came back to art through a different route altogether.”
The late Paul Mellon provided the pivotal encouragement. In late spring of 1985 the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC) held an exhibition of Stubbs in honor of Mr. Mellon, who had just retired as the NGA’s chairman of the board and trustee. “I was staggered by this exhibit, and I wrote a note to Mr. Mellon, never really expecting to hear from him. I just wanted to express my appreciation,” explains Andrea. “Being a person of exquisite manners, he wrote back. I don’t think he remembered me as the little girl cantering on her pony years before. We talked and he was extremely encouraging. He thought it was unusual that a woman as young as I was so interested in history and in preserving the beautiful traditions of the past. He suggested that I go to the UK, visit the galleries, study very carefully and do it myself – paint in that early sporting art style. No one was painting in the style of Stubbs and Marshall. I thought, maybe, since this style of art appeals to foxhunters, maybe there was a market for it.”
Andrea specializes in paintings that emulate the style of the masters of the 18th and 19th centuries. She harvests inspiration from foxhunting, classical equitation, and the early sporting artists. Her love of history guides her brush strokes.
In the Style of Stubbs
“It gives me great joy and the greatest satisfaction,” admits Andrea. “I do modern work, of course, and contemporary portraits. I just love getting lost in the past in the golden age of horsemanship. Everyone loves Munnings, but I can’t even hope to begin to emulate him with his loose impressionist style. I’m referring to artists who painted in earlier periods: Stubbs, Velasquez, and Marshall did very beautiful horses.”
One focus of Andrea’s commission work is charitable in nature. Thoroughbreds painted in the style of the 18th century have raised money for cancer research and Thoroughbred rescue, hound pictures have benefited fox hound and beagle rescue. Of course, if someone prefers a painting with a British background or a modern American setting, the artist is happy to comply.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, whatever field you’re in, do not procrastinate,” says Andrea. “My father died and he never painted a portrait of my mother. I kept putting off painting a horse that I loved and then realized that those photos were destroyed in a fire. I need to paint my son and my daughter, my animals, and my sweet little mare, River. You never know how long you’re going to have them. You have to seize the day.”
For information, please visit: www.historichorse.com