The work of sporting artists finds a new home
In his 2003 memoir, Horse People, the book editor and author Michael Korda called Middleburg, Virginia, “perhaps the horsiest place in America.” A hamlet of only six hundred or so residents, the bucolic haven just forty miles from Washington, D.C., has long capitalized on its equestrian cachet, holding its own with the likes of Lexington (Kentucky), Aiken (South Carolina), and Palm Beach.
Now Middleburg is raising its profile in art circles as well. Since its founding in 1954, the town’s National Sporting Library has accumulated a 17,000-volume mother lode of rare books and other documents centered around horse and field sports, boasting such gems as a 1653 first edition of Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler and a 1743 pamphlet entitled Business and Diversion Inoffensive to God, which originated as a sermon and argues in favor of fishing on Sunday. Appending the phrase “and Museum” to its name, the facility has broadened its focus to include paintings, sculpture, and other artifacts of the sporting life. The new art museum—housed in a renovated 1804 Federal manor house built of handmade bricks—opened this fall with a cleverly conceived exhibit called Afield in America: 400 Years of Animal and Sporting Art, 1585–1985. It includes about 150 works, most of them on loan from other museums and private collectors.