John Rattenbury Skeaping (1901-1980) born in South Woodford, Essex, England. He was schooled in art from a very young age by his father who was a painter. In 1914, at the age of 13, he devoted himself to the study of art on a full time basis. Growing up in England before WWI, Skeaping was one of the last generation to experience the horse as part of everyday life. He was always fascinated with horses and several of his first sculptures were of work horses. He sculpted The Farrier, in 1915 when he was only 14 years old.
Skeaping continued his studies at the Blackheath School of Art, at Goldsmiths College, the Central School of Art, and the Royal Academy. At the age of 19 he won the Royal Academy Gold Medal Traveling Scholarship and in 1924 he won the Prix de Rome at the Paris Salon. In 1925 he married the artist Barbara Hepworth but they drifted apart and separated in 1931. Skeaping continued modeling and carving, and created several animal pieces for Wedgwood in 1928 of a Sea Lion, Kangaroo, Duiker, Polar Bear, Bison, Tiger, Deer and Antelope groups that are quite stylized and reflect the Art Deco influence of the era. He also did stone carvings of animals during this time.
During the WWII years Skeaping served in the Royal Intelligence Corps in North Africa and Europe. After the war he lived in Mexico until 1950 when he returned to England. He became Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art until his retirement in 1959 when he moved to the Camargue in France where he spent the rest of his life.
During the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Skeaping was associated with the famous Ackermann firm who offered sporting and racing art. He produced many paintings and drawings of horses during this time. Most of his equestrian works are from the 1960s and 1970s and his subjects covered race horses, harness horses, flat racers and steeplechasers. He also did some fine commissioned portraits of famous horses of the day including Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Hyperion, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Chamossaire, and more.
John Skeaping is considered one of the finest sculptors of the 20th century, and his works are in many museum collections, including the Tate, the British Museum, and the Royal Academy in the UK, and others in the USA, Japan, and Australia, as well as in private collections. His bronzes were cast in small editions of 10 or less casts, and are highly prized today.
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