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 Walter W. Winans  (1852 - 1920)

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Lived/Active: Maryland / England/France/Russian Federation      Known for: horse and western theme sculpture

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Walter Winans
An example of work by Walter W. Winans
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia to wealthy American parents, Walter Winans was known for his hunting, trotting-horse racing skills and realist sculpture of racehorses, cowboys and Indians.

As a recognized sculptor, he earned an Olympic gold medal in Stockholm in 1912 for his bronze, An American Trotter.  Winans as a sharpshooter was described in Cybershooters, an internet source for sporting-gun enthusiasts, as "one of the greatest pistol shots of the late 19th and early 29th centuries."  He won two Olympic medals for competitive shooting, a Gold Medal in 1908 in London and a Silver Medal in Stockholm.

Although he was an American citizen whose family was rooted in Vermont, Maryland, and New Jersey, Winans did not come to America until 1910, when he was fifty-eight years old.  In Scotland, he held hunting and shooting rights over nearly 250,000 acres.

He came from a distinguished New England family of inventors whose accomplishments allowed him the financial security to pursue, his interests of fine-art expression, trotting horse racing, and competitive sharpshooting.  His grandfather, Ross Winans (1793-1877), was a Vermont-born railroad builder who became one of the wealthiest industrialists of his era. For 30 years, he oversaw a locomotive-building shop in Mount Claire, New Jersey.  His major client was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, but he also had contracts with other Northern railroad companies, whose routes were expanding, especially for the transportation of coal.  In 1840, the Czar of Russia gave Ross Winans control of railway expansion in his country, and Walter Winans' father, Thomas DeKay Winans, son of Ross Winans, and his mother, Celeste Revillon Winans, were in Russia working on that project, when Walter was born in St. Petersburg. 

George Washington Whistler, father of painter James McNeill Whistler, was an engineer overseeing much of the railroad-building project.  Because of that project, the Whistler and Winans families had close association including relationship by marriage.  Thomas Winans's sister, Julia, married George Whistler, brother of James Whistler and son of George Washington Whistler. 

In 1866, the railroad-building venture was taken over by the Russian government with a big payout to the Winans family, and Walter's parents returned to the United States, establishing residence in Baltimore where Ross Winans was living.  Thomas Winans died in 1878, only a year after the death of his father.  Young Walter, age 26, who was living in England, inherited much of his father's money, which according to the 1870s Vernon, Vermont historian Jacobus Van Brug was estimated to be worth from twenty to forty million dollars. 

Walter Winans, as stated earlier, used his money to pursue his interests related to horses, art expression, and guns.  He became very active in the sport of horse trotting, both as a driver and breeder, and also initiated trotting events at Parsloes Park near London.  In addition, he was in Austria breeding and racing trotting horses.  As a hunter, especially of wild boar, Winans had his own boar hunting forest in Belgium, and also had a large estate in Kent, England that was the site of many gatherings of notable persons.

Fitting with his love of horses and competition, Walter Winans died in 1920 in a sulky in Parsloes Park, just as his horse, Henrietta Guy, crossed the finish line in a trotting race.

Winans' sculpture is in the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Hartsfied House in London.  He was a member of the Peintres et Sculpteurs du Cheval, a French organization of artists known for their skillful depiction of horses.

Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West  (Monterey California Historical Society, account of George Gordon Moore about boar hunting and Walter Winans)

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Patrik Steorn, PhD student researcher, History of Art, Stockholm's Universitet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Walter Winans received the gold medal for his bronze American Trotter, which was exhibited in Stockholm during the Olympic games.  When it was to be sent back, Winans offered to donate it to some museum in Stockholm.  The organizing committee of the Stockholm Olympic games were also planning for a sports museum at that time, so they gratefully accepted it on behalf of the museum-to-be.

Unfortunately there still is no permanent sports museum in Stockholm, but the sculpture is most likely kept by Riksidrottsforbundet ( there is an English version). 

This was the first art competition in the history of the Olympic games, and the administration was done not by the Swedish committee, but by the international committee and Pierre de Coubertin, who probably was the judge of this competition as well.  You can read his comments on the artworks in an article of Olympic Review (Revue Olympique), July 1912.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
Early efforts by sculptors to establish a distinctly American theme resulted in visions of the American West and the "noble savages" that inhabited it.  Walter Winans' image of America from the perspective of an American overseas was formed by the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.  Short of being a first-hand experience by an artist visiting the American West, it was a true rendition of the American West as played out in the halls of Europe.

Winans was born in Russia of American parents.  He studied under Voldemar Volkoff in Russia and in France became a member of Paintres et Sculpteurs du Cheval.  He was also appointed Chevalier of the Imperial Russian Order.  One of his bronzes was awarded the Silver Medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, falling silver only to the gold effort of Hermon Atkins MacNeil.

Works by Winan can still be seen in the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg; Hartsfeld House in London and many other museums and major collections throughout the world.

Walter Winans' specialty was the horse and it's anatomy and his portrayal of working horses. With his bronzes he showed an ability to capture the behavior and appearance of horses in their natural attitudes and environments.  He captured the dynamism and power of the stallions of Indian warriors and the savage nobility of the Indian.

Crystal Palace Exhibition, 1897
Silver Medal, Paris Exposition Universelle, 1900

Biography from Whistler House Museum of Art:
It seems that Ross Winans and George Washington Whistler were old friends because of their common interest in railroading.  Winans was an inventor as well as engineer.   They were both involved in the Russian rail project.  The Winans became fabulously wealthy as a result of that project. 

George Whistler (James older half-brother) was married to Julia (his 2nd wife), Ross Winans' daughter. 

Thomas deKay Winans, son of Ross, was father of Walter Winans.  Thomas lived in London and quite often was benefactor to James McNeill Whistler during hard times.

Submitted by Peggy Dunn who write: "Most of the above is in James McNeill Whistler - Beyond the Myth by Ronald Anderson & Anne Koval."

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Walter Winans is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Olympic Artists

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