Horse & Style Magazine: The Art, Life, and Future of Milton Menasco
As Featured in Horse & Style Magazine
Written by Alli Addison
Photography by Taylor Rea
I have yet to meet a horse-obsessed child who doesn’t spend their away-from-the-barn time doodling horses, perfecting the art of translating their beloved equine companion to paper. Every art assignment. Every binder cover. Their works proudly covering the walls of their bedrooms, affectionately hung beside the countless ribbons won and photographs taken. I was this child. I doodled my inner most equine thoughts and daydreams to the point of exhaustion. I was relentless in my quest to be an equestrian artist, along with the countless other equestrian pursuits I had planned for my adult years. And truthfully, my parents entertained the idea with statements such as “this is fantastic,” or “you have a real talent, dear,” as any parent naturally would.
And I thought I did, as I believed that art was in my blood. I grew up surrounded by stunning equine portraiture. Countless works spanning a lifelong career hung in the homes of my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and my great aunt. And all having been produced from the truly talented hand of Milton Menasco, my great uncle. I spent my days (and holiday dinners, gatherings, birthday parties and such) studying the pieces, soaking it in with sponge-like style, and developing an innate passion and appreciation for his classical eye.
Who is Milton Menasco? The facts will list him as an American painter and art director, born in Los Angeles in 1890, who began his art career in the early days of Hollywood. He had a rich and full career as an artist in various fields spanning the country from California to New York - art direction, set direction and advertising - before he exclusively devoted his talent to equestrian art. In 1948, Menasco left a successful career with a New York advertising agency and moved to Kentucky where he did what many of us would love to do - bought a small horse farm with a little studio and surrounded himself with the animals we adore. And so began the path that would come to define him.
But becoming an ‘exacting painter of horses who can reflect the sound and basic knowledge of the animal’ does not just happen overnight. There has to be interest in the animal and a familiarity with the subject. Menasco’s understanding stemmed from a childhood spent in Southern California. Not the California we all know today, but a rural era where ranchos reigned supreme and the lifestyle of its inhabitants echoed the atmosphere of their earlier spanish owners. Milton Menasco was fortunate enough to have lived in Sierra Madre, adjoining one of the great thoroughbred breeding establishments of the West Coast, the Baldwin Ranch. It was on this property in 1906 that the Arcadia track was erected, now home of the Santa Anita race track. So naturally the artist-to-be ‘absorbed a lifelong enthusiasm’ for racing and for the thoroughbred.