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 Ann Collins  (1916 - 1999)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: race-horse portrait and western-scene painting

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Ann Collins
An example of work by Ann Collins
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted June 2006, is from Larry Ann Evans, daughter of the artist.

Ann Collins was born in Lyons, New York on April 29, 1916 and during her career, which spanned from the 1930’s through the 1980’s, became one of her generation’s most skillful artists of Thoroughbred racehorses, commissioned by the foremost owners, breeders and trainers of the racing world.

Ann Collin's love of horses began when she was very young.  When she was nine months old, her father, Cornelius Collins, moved his family west to Colorado.  Ann showed a passion for drawing and painting from the time she was able to hold a pencil, one of the first being of her own pony, when she was just four years old.  With no one but her mother and father to guide her, she developed her  talent at their ranch house on the Sangre de Cristo Range - first with pencil and crayons, later with watercolor and oil.

Her subjects were always the horses, cowboys and Indians that she saw working for her father on the Trinchera Grant in Colorado, where her father was overseer of timbering operations.  All of the artist’s westerns, painted one-a-year throughout her career, had the tell-tail signs of her life in Colorado: the canons, wild horses, Indians and covered wagons.  Her feel for horses wasn’t learned from afar; at eight, she was breaking ponies with the cowhands and at ten riding horseback from one point to the other of the Trinchera Land Grant, a space the size of the state of Rhode Island (now the 150,000 acre Forbes Trinchera Ranch).

When she was sixteen her father moved the family again to return to their home town of Lyons, NY.  After graduating from high school in Lyons, the young artist enrolled, at her father’s urging in Syracuse University’s highly regarded School of Fine Arts, where she completed numerous student pen and inks, charcoal sketches, watercolors and oils that have been kept to this day in the family home.  Soon after graduation, she put her talent and her love of horses together to begin her career at Saratoga, where her father had just recently taken over the casino at Piping Rock Club.  In the summer of 1935 Saratoga was the mecca of the world’s wealthiest horse racers and it is there, painting on the grounds of the Piping Rock Club that she was discovered.

Ann Collins sold her first painting to Col. E.R. Bradley, the first man to own four Kentucky Derby winners, who after seeing one of the artist’s westerns, Covered Wagon, bought it and started her on her path to international fame.  Soon after, at twenty-eight, Ann Collins was commissioned to paint the most famous race of her time, a race between only two horses:  Alsab and Whirlaway.  Narragansett Park commissioned her to paint the finish line where Alsab beat Whirlaway. 

As word spread, Miss Collins was commissioned to paint more than seventy-five of the leading racehorses of our time including Citation for the then President of Tropical Park, Nat Herzfeld; Chrysler II and By Jimminy for Walter P. Chrysler, Dom Bingo for Bing Crosby; Tom Fool for Jock Whitney; and Discovery and Bed of Roses for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.

Ann was also the only American artist ever sent to England to paint the winner of the Washington D.C International race.  John Schapiro, the former owner of Laurel Race Course, founded the turf race in 1952 to bring together the world's best horses. England's Wilwyn won the inaugural event, and Shapiro sent Ann to his stables in  Kent, England to have the horse “sit” for her.

Ann was sometimes commissioned to paint some of the people closely involved with the horse alongside the horse in the canvas, such as jockeys Johnny Londgen, Eddie Arcaro, Eric Guerin, and Shelby Clark.  Douglas Dodson was painted with Bed O’Roses, and Teddy Atkinson on Baron Jack; and owners Bing Crosby with Don Bingo, Charles Turner with Bon Jour, Mrs. Payne Whitney at the head of Swing and Sway, and Mrs. Nicholas Martini holding Master Fiddle.

Not only did Ann paint thoroughbreds, she also painted dogs.  In 1952 Ann exhibited some of those paintings at the 76th Westminister Kennel Club show in Madison Square Garden.  One was of Wags, a Dachshund commissioned by Danny Arnstein, the New York City taxicab magnate of Wags Transportation Systems, and the other was of  Tony, a brindle boxer owned by Dan Parker, former columnist for the New York Daily Mirror.

Ann Collins' career spanned six decades until her death in 1999.  She is remembered by many and written up in numerous books, magazines and newspaper articles. Her painting of Rouge Dragon is part of the permanent collection of The National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.  Dan Parker, described her as “The modern Rosa Bonheur… She makes horses live on canvas. A tall and willowy blond, her face and figure suggest that she might be an artist’s model rather than the artist herself.  Her love of horses is as great as her love of life.”


PERIODICAL REFERENCES

   Magazine: The National Horseman
   Date: November 1942
   Article: Sells Painting of Alsab

   Magazine: Beauty Fashion
   Date: November 1944
   Inside Article: “Make-up Palette”

   Magazine: Independent Woman
   Date: February 1945
   Inside Article: “Marketwise” Artist

   Magazine: Turf and Sport Digest
   Date: December 1946
   Inside Article: Backstretch Soliloquy

   Magazine: The Thoroughbred Record
   Date: October 18, 1947
   Inside Article: Part of “Memos”

   Magazine: The Thoroughbred of California
   Date: May 1948
   Inside Article: The Horse in Contemporary American Art

   Magazine: The Chronicle: A Sporting Journal
   Date: Friday, May 7, 1948
   Inside Article & Cover artwork of “Rouge Dragon”

   Magazine: The Chronicle: A Sporting Journal
   Date: Friday, June 11, 1948
   Inside Article & Cover artwork of “Navigate with his Bantam Rooster”

   Magazine: The Chronicle: A Sporting Journal
   Date: Friday, July 16, 1948
   Inside Article & Cover artwork “North Wales’ By Jimminy”

   Magazine: Horsemen’s Journal
   Date: August 1958
   Cover artwork “Lord Putnam”

   Magazine: The Chronicle: A Sporting Journal
   Date: Friday, April 15, 1949
   Inside Article & Cover artwork “Mr. Gambrill’s Coach and Four”

   Magazine: The New Jersey Thoroughbred
   Date: February 1951
   Inside Article

   Magazine: The Thoroughbred Record
   Date: August 23, 1952
   Inside Article: “The Saratoga Story”

   Magazine: The Chronicle: A Sporting Journal
   Date: August 21, 1953
   Inside Article & Cover artwork “Equanimous”

   Magazine: Turf And Sport Digest
   Date: November 1953
   Cover artwork of "Wilwyn" and inside cover article

   Magazine: The New Jersey Thoroughbred - Stallion Edition
   Date: December 1955 (Vol. 9 No. 1)
   Inside article

   Magazine: Turf and Sport Digest
   Date: August 1955
   Cover artwork “The Heir” and inside cover article


CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PAINTINGS OF RACE HORSES


DATE    HORSE            COMMISSIONED BY    now owned by

1942    ALSAB            Albert Sabath
            ALSAB & WHIRLAWAY    Naragansett Park
             (Finish line of Championship Match Race Sept. 19, 1942)
1943    LILLETH        Daniel Sangper
1944    SOLE PIRATE        Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr.
            CRAFTY ADMIRAL    Charles Cohen
            VOLITANT        George Bull
            RIVERLAND        Harold Clark
1945    BARON JACK        “Baron” Jack Kriendler - former owner
                of  Club 21, NY
            DON BINGO        Bing Crosby
            BOBANET        Dorothy Clark & Bruce Livie
            MARKETWISE        George Carroll
            ROUGE DRAGON        William G. Jones
1946    DISCOVERY        Alfred Gwynne Vanderbuilt
            BON JOUR        Charles Turner
            MERCATOR        William G. Jones
            BUZFUZ            Dan Chappel
            FIRST FLIGHT        Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
            EQUANIMOUS        Ashlyn Cannon
            NAVIGATE        Regan McKinney
1947    POLYNESIAN        P.A.B. Widener
            MARKET WISE        George W. Carroll
            REQUESTED        B.F. Whitaker
            BY JIMMINY        Walter P. Chrysler
1948    CHRYSLER II        Walter P. Chrysler
            DRUM BEAT        Robert S. Howard
            SHEILA’S REWARD    Louis Lazare
            MISS DISCO        Sidney Schupper        Simmy Sussman
1949    ATTENTION        Damon Runyon, Memorial Cancer Fund
            BED o’ROSES        Alfred Gwynne Vanderbuilt
            NELL K            James D. Norris
            ROYAL GOVERNOR    Mrs. Esther Dupont Weir
            ARISE            Jack Addison
1950    SWEET DREAM        Joseph Rabinovich
            HELLION        George Haas
            MAN o’ WAR        Samuel Riddle
            MOUNT MARCY        S.E. Veitch
1951    MICHE            Mrs. John Payson Adams
            NAVIGATOR        Regan McKinney
            JAM            James F. McHugh
            SWING AND SWAY    Mrs. Payne Whitney
            TALLYHO        Daniel Ernstein
1952    ROYAL BAY GEM    Eugene Constantine Jr.
            ANXIOUS MOMENT    Jack Hogan
            BIG DIAL        Ernest Hart (trainer)
            MASTER FIDDLE        Mrs. Nicholas Martini
            CITATION        N.E. Hertzfeld - President of Tropical Park
1953    WILWYN        John Shapiro
            HELIOSCOPE        William Helis
            TOM FOOL        Jock Whitney
1954    THREE RINGS        E. L. Hopkins
            POCAHONTES        Raymond Guest
1955    A STEEPLECHASE    Ashlyn Cannon
            BUNNY’S BABE        Col. E.P. Bixer
1956    AUCTION        James F. McHugh
1957     JABNEH            Louisa DuPont Carpenter
1958     TROILES        Bayard Sharp
             CRAFTY ADMIRAL    Charles Cohen
             CITATION        Lucille P. (Wright) Markey
             AMBROSIA        Anthony Imbesi
1959    VULCAN’S FORGE    I.J. Collins
            MR. JIVE        A. Appelbaum
            BELLE SOEUR        Louisa duPont Carpenter    Greta Siemen                (Grandaughter of Louisa)
            GREEK STAR        Sidney M. Barton
1963    GET AROUND        Elizabeth Arden
            CHIEFTAIN        Raymond Guest
            CASTLE FORBES        Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps
1965    YANKEE BLAZE        Laramie G. Evans
1966    QUADRANGLE        Paul Mellon
1968    KAUAI KING        Mike Ford
1978    MAC DIARMIDA        Dr. Jerome M. Torsney
1980    HORATIUS        Dr. Philip J. Torsney
1984    ISLAND WHIRL        F. William Harder  (Elcee-H Stable)




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