19th-Century British Folk Art

Harness Racing

19th-Century British Folk Art

Harness Racing

This late 19th-century naive British oil painting depicts a scene from a harness race. It’s signed ‘E T Noll’.

Sitting somewhat precariously atop a ‘high-wheeled sulky’, a rider, wearing a light blue jersey, grapples with the reins of a trotting horse. Beyond him, a large oval track is peppered with onlookers.

Harness Racing has been a popular sport in the United Kingdom for over 100 years. Its origins are unknown but date back many centuries with the earliest ‘trotting races’ taking place in Holland. Some say that it began with competitive postal workers racing their horses all over the country. While others believe it was instigated by villagers rushing home from church. Either way, during the 19th century, it captured the British imagination and the worthiest of winners were immortalised in paint and print.

Over the years, the sulky (on which the rider sits), was adapted with the addition of bicycle wheels, which led to it becoming smaller and closer to the ground. But here, we see the high-wheeled version - dramatic and rather dangerous. These larger wheels would’ve been around five feet in diameter and weighed 100 pounds.

Signed/inscribed/dated lower left and held within a period gilt frame. The inscription refers to a Royal Academy award.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 38” x 27½” / 96cm x 70cm
Year of creation: 1882
Condition: Artwork presents well. Canvas relined. Old repairs. Frame with some light wear.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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