Emma Sergeant was born in London and studied painting at Camberwell School of Art. Aged 21 she won the National Gallery Portrait Painting prize, setting in train a number of sell-out shows. In 1995 she travelled with the Prince of Wales around Egypt and Morocco and a year later around Ukraine and Central Asia. Since then she has introduced horses into her paintings of humans and has started breeding thoroughbred bred horses at her home in Poland.
“When I am doing a horse portrait, its no different from doing human subjects. I love their colours, textures and tensions. The liberation about painting horses though is that they don’t mind about your interest in them; human beings can be so sensitive.
I didn’t start riding until my twenties as my mother didn’t like the idea of renting horses and I was brought up in London.
In days gone by people were always painted with their horses – it was part of their prestige.
Since the Renaissance they have been part of the pattern of paintings – balancing out the human figures as their alter egos.
I breed horses and have learned that they keep a strict hierarchy in the wild which is less noticeable than when you keep them at livery. The stallions dominate the geldings who went into decline when they were all kept together. Animals believe in hierarchy – it’s a huge part of their lives”.
Messum’s Wiltshire is a pioneering multi-purpose gallery and arts centre celebrating the creative endeavour.