Painting in the Paddock

Posted on
Celeste Lewis

New retrospective honors the work and life of artist Peter Williams

A sample of Peter Williams' Keeneland artwork.

If there is a prettier scene than the horses at Keeneland making their way around the paddock on a gorgeous spring or fall day, it’s hard to imagine what it may be.

Artist Peter Williams catching the equine action.

Artist Peter Williams has witnessed countless such days and recorded them with paint on canvas in his immediate “capture the moment” style for decades. He has taken his talent and passion for people and horses to the world’s finest race tracks around the world.

Bill Thomason, president and CEO of Keeneland, had this to say about Williams: “Peter’s unique eye beautifully captures the pageantry and color of racing. He is a treasured part of the Keeneland landscape, and his affable nature makes him a wonderful ambassador for the sport.”

A new book about the artist, titled “Peter Williams Retrospective: Paintings and People Dear to Me” and written by Lexington author Fran Taylor, has just been released. Full of images of his most beloved paintings, the volume also features many quotes and visits with some of Williams’ biggest fans and collectors, including celebrities and luminaries in the horse-racing world, many of whom have become great friends with the artist over the years.

A native of New Zealand, Williams has a special place in his heart for Kentucky and has forged many lasting friendships here in the Bluegrass. Taylor counts herself among his biggest fans.

“His talent is immeasurable, his charm undeniable. He is, in short, a treasure,” she said.

Williams recently shared his own perspective on his art and his career in an e-mail interview from his home in New Zealand.

How did your artistic career get started? 

I was confined to complete bedrest for two years with glandular fever as a 4-year-old. I spent my time building model airplanes, which in turn developed my hand-eye coordination at a very early age.

How did you come to love horses as a subject for your paintings?

In New Zealand, during the war years, 1939-1945, gasoline was rationed, of course. The alternative form of transportation was four-legged.

Tragically for a boy of 6, my favorite pony was stolen from the farm. I was devastated.

However, this was no ordinary gelding. He had the uncanny intelligence to open gates. A month later, he returned home all on his own, and a little boy was overjoyed to be reunited. I was clearly bonded to horses from early childhood.

How did your relationship with Keeneland begin?  

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