Through the month of October, horse racing enthusiasts will be making the trip to Keeneland for the fall season. Once there, whether it be for the love of the sport or the thrill of a gamble, their attention will be drawn to the horses on the track and the jockeys that command their movements and speed.
But world-renowned sporting artist Andre Pater never had as much interest in the kinetic and widely-watched elements of a horse race. He would rather spend time capturing horses and jockeys in settings away from the track. He would see jockeys talking to trainers, praying or sitting in silence. He would find the beauty in the jockeys mounted on their horses moving in slow motion or pausing in stillness as the race approaches.
“When I watched them and observed them, I found all kinds of different behaviors in different stages,” the Polish-born, Kentucky-based painter said. “It is a sport of giants. They may not be very big but, mentally, it is a very big sport. It may be a bit theatrical, but this is a stage for me. One stage is before the race and the other stage is during the race.”
Pater, 65, has become one of sporting art’s most revered and successful artists, capturing the humanity behind horse racing and subjects ranging from animals to his recent paintings of Native Americans. A retrospective exhibit, “Andre Pater: An American Journey,” is on display at the Headley-Whitney Museum of Art through Nov. 17.
Pater found his love of horses as a child growing up in Poland visiting markets near his home with his mother and grandmother. He graduated with a degree in architecture from the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts before moving to the United States and eventually working in Dallas. While he was proficient as an architect, his passion was in painting and creating paintings of horses, in particular. First, Arabians in Texas before making his permanent American home in Kentucky in 1988 and focusing on Thoroughbreds. .
He also found himself attracted to other aspects of sporting life, including sporting hounds, fox hunting, cattle and wildlife. Regardless of his subject matter, Pater’s work is bursting with light, color and detail that reflects a positivity he brings to his paintings.
“I like late afternoon when the light is level and shapes animals in the way that you can see the form and structure and I can play with the light and shadow and reflected light,” he said. “What I like to convey, I like to convey a nice mood, a nice feeling, something that will enhance people’s perception.”
The Headley-Whitney Museum of Art is intent on helping enhance people’s perception of Pater in a few ways.
The current retrospective is a collaboration and exhibit four years in the making and also led to the publishing of his first comprehensive, hardback book “A Matter of Light: The Art of Andre Pater,” which includes over 200 pieces accompanying the story of his life and work. The exhibit features more than 90 paintings spanning nearly four decades of Pater’s career, ranging from horses and equestrian subjects to sporting life and Native American subjects from his travels in the Western U.S.
“There is the important historical aspect of this show but, moreover, the work itself is a stunning display of painting mastery by an artist who is widely considered to be the finest sporting artist of our generation,” said Christina Bell, curator of the exhibit at the Headley-Whitney Museum.
Pater said he plans to continue paint whatever subjects move him and will continue to refresh his approach in both subjects and artistic media and present himself new challenges.
“If you have a passion for something, nothing will stop you and it’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said.
Andre Pater: An American Journey”
When: On display through Nov. 17
Where: The Headley-Whitney Museum of Art, 4435 Old Frankfort Pike
Admission: $10, $8 for students, seniors and military
Book Signing: Oct. 27. Artist-guided tour at 1 p.m., signing of “A Matter of Light, the Art of Andre Pater” at 2 p.m.
More information: 859-255-6653 or headley-whitney.org