“Ta-ta, old chap. I must push on a trifle faster” – the words with which jockey Arthur Nightingall won the 1901 Grand National as he left his nearest rival standing.
The legendary race was being run in a howling snowstorm, which saw only eight horses completing the course. The going was so slow that for much of the race Nightingall carried out an animated conversation with fellow jockey, Algy Anthony, until the former struck out for home with his cheerful farewell.
Two pairs of paintings celebrating the rare events of the 1901 race are being sold at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury on 4th March. By George Finch Mason and John Beer, the contemporary artworks depict Grudon, Nightingall’s winning mount, and are titled, signed and dated.
“Grudon was among the favourites to win,” explains Paintings specialist, Victor Fauvelle, “but heavy snow meant that expectations were thrown up in the air and it was really anybody’s race. But contemporary reports describe Grudon leading from the off – something which was attributed to the horse’s trainer, Bernard Bletsoe, having packed his hooves with butter.”
Both Mason and Beer were specialist equestrian artists, well known for their depictions of significant races, equestrian events and famous steeds. Their works here are included in a small section of equestrian and countryside pursuit artworks which feature in the Old Masters, British and European Paintings sale on 4th March.
“There is still good interest in paintings of this type, especially when they record races and events of real significance in equestrian history,” says Fauvelle. “The 1901 Grand National was notable because of the weather conditions, although it paled into insignificance beside the 1882 race, when weather conditions were so bad that only three horses finished.”
Snow threatened the Grand National as recently as last year when odds of snow falling on race day were as low as 4-1, although the flakes failed to make an appearance.
“Today’s views on health and safety may well mean that we would never see a repeat of the events of 1901,” says Fauvelle. “For collectors interested in horse racing history both pairs of paintings are an important record of what must have been a truly exciting day out.”
Each pair of paintings carries an estimate of £300-500.