John Watson (1870-1934), known as Jack, came from a renowned family of horse trainers working for the Rothschilds both in England and in France. Jack served as a trainer for the Rothschild family as well as for the illustrious August Belmont. Watson’s most successful victories included winning the 1908 Two Thousand Guineas with Norman III
and the St. Leger in 1912 with Tracery
, both for Belmont, and the One Thousand Guineas for Rothschild in 1926 with the filly Pillion
. As an owner himself, he won the Oaks in 1921 with Love in Idleness
Watson’s son, Geoffrey (1905-1994) was also a very successful trainer to other members of the Rothschild family with numerous victories including the Prix de l’ Arc, the 1919 Grand Prix de Paris with Galloper Light
, whom Munnings later painted, and seven Prix de Diane victories at Chantilly. In 1972, he had forty-four winners and was the top French trainer.
The present work shows Watson posing for his portrait with Anthony de Rothschild’s Galloper Light
in celebration of his Prix de Paris victory. The larger portrait is based on the historic convention in which the horse with its ‘dependents,’ usually owner and trainer, stand in profile against the sky. In preparation for the finished commission, the artist sets Watson in the bright sun, as evidenced by the glimmering sheen of the trainer’s silk top hat, which would illuminate the musculature of the horse's flank in the larger composition. Watson, holding the strap of his binocular case, stands proudly with apparent satisfaction.
We would like to thank Lorian Peralta-Ramos for contributing this note.