Anthony M. Alonso has never lived in Saratoga Springs, but for more than 30 years, he’s come to town during track season.
An internationally known equine artist who creates portraits of famous thoroughbreds as well as tranquil stable scenes, Alonso is Saratoga’s king of equine artists, with the longest reign of summer exhibits in Saratoga.
For 33 years, he showed his oil paintings of the Saratoga race scene at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in historic Saratoga Spa State Park. He and his wife, Mary, who have lived in Florida since 1993, would set up temporary residence in Saratoga, so the artist could meet and greet visitors in the hotel’s elegant Blue Room.
This year, Alonso’s paintings will not be exhibited at the Gideon, but at Cross Gate Gallery in the Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion and at the Holiday Inn, in Terry Lindsey’s Equidae Gallery.
Traveling from Kentucky to the second floor of the Pavilion for the 14th year, Cross Gate is one of the top sporting art galleries in the country, and Alonso’s paintings will hang with more than 100 works by some of the world’s finest equine artists. At Equidae Gallery, which is traveling from Vermont and exhibiting in Saratoga for the ninth year, Alonso is this summer’s guest artist, joining 36 others in the show.
Paintings by Anthony M. Alonso
WHERE: Cross Gate Gallery, Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion, East Avenue, Saratoga Springs; and Terry Lindsey Equidae Gallery, Holiday Inn, 232 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.
WHEN: Through Sept. 6 at Terry Lindsey Equidae Gallery, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; Aug. 1 through Sept. 6 at Cross Gate Gallery, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily Aug. 1-8, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily Aug. 9-Sept. 6.
HOW MUCH: Free
RELATED EVENT: Anthony M. Alonso will be the special guest at the opening reception for the Terry Lindsey Equidae Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Holiday Inn.
Three years ago, more than 150 of his paintings were collected in a book, “The Fine Art of Anthony M. Alonso,” published by Blood-Horse Publications and Eclipse Press, and in 1996, he was honored with “A Quarter Century Retrospective” at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs.
A New York City native, the 78-year-old artist has been painting since he was 12 years old. He is a graduate of Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art and the Pratt Institute, and he studied at the Art Students League.
He spoke to The Gazette this week from his home in Stuart, Fla., as he was getting ready for another trip north to Saratoga.
Q: What kind of paintings will we see this summer?
A: They all revolve around Saratoga and its environment and the racing.
Q: Your work is described as Romantic Realism. What does that mean?
A: People love Saratoga, they love racing. And I try to re-kindle that feeling that they have with my painting . . . I’m an emotional guy, I guess.
Q: Since the 1970s, you’ve taken many photos that inspire your paintings. Has digital photography changed how you paint?
A: It just makes it easier because I can get instant gratification from taking pictures. Then, I put the feelings that I had into the paintings. It’s not a copy of the photo, it’s a feeling, it’s how I responded when I saw the image. There is a difference.
Q: When you are commissioned to paint a portrait of a thoroughbred, what is your process?
A: First thing I do is see the horse at the stable, working out in the morning, etc.. Then I talk to the people who take care of the horse: the trainers, the jockeys, the grooms, especially the grooms, because they know them almost like people, and they can give me little hints as to what their habits are, and hopefully it shows through in the painting. It’s interesting, because they are all different in many ways. I remember painting Ruffian, and she had like a different personality when she was on a racetrack. In the backstretch, she was as calm as can be. But when it was time to race, she was all muscle. . . . It was unbelievable.
Q: Do you sketch and take photos of the horse?
A: Yes, I do both. Most of the horses I paint are not retired, they are still racing. The trainers, in particular, are concerned with not disturbing the horse, so it’s done very quickly. I take pictures and make note of the markings and things the camera can’t pick up. And it’s more than a one-time visit. When I start doing the painting, I notice things, and I go back and refresh my memory.
Q: Do you follow the careers of Saratoga’s favorite thoroughbreds, like Rachel Alexandra?
A: Yes, I do. I did a portrait of Rachel Alexandra that will be in Saratoga, at the Holiday Inn. I’m kind of anticipating that she will run. She loves that race track.
Q: Do you place bets?
A: (He laughs heartily) I’ve left my contributions there.
Q: Do you feel a connection to Saratoga?
A: I have made friends, some of my collectors are dear friends. They’ve purchased paintings, and we’ve socialized, and they are wonderful people. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Q: You’ve been to race tracks across the country. What is special about Saratoga?
A: It’s just so unbelievable how everybody reacts to it. They may all be grouches elsewhere, but when they get to Saratoga, they are friendly. It’s a wonderful environment. I hope it keeps going.