The 44th Annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, which runs from August 25–September 1, is an event steeped in tradition. Among those traditions is the annual poster, which features equine imagery by a different artist each year. Announced this week, 2019’s poster artist Kelly Wilkinson Coffin, a native Virginian and self-proclaimed “lifelong horsewoman,” was selected for her painting “Passing Traditions Along.”
The image of a grandfather and grandson entering the Hampton Classic show ring “is rooted in the concept of the oral tradition of equestrian sport,” Coffin explains in a statement about her piece, adding, “I hoped to capture the timeless quality of the equestrian tradition and that of the Hampton Classic Horse Show that has been, and continues to be, shared by multiple generations.”
Coffin trained at the Ingbretson Studio of Drawing and Painting, an atelier based in the teachings of the early 20th century painters in the Boston School, such as Edmund Tarbell, Joseph DeCamp, Frank Weston Benson and William McGregor Paxton. Before becoming a full-time painter, Coffin was a fox hunter, a lover of nature and outdoor sporting. She is married to Tad Coffin, who won double gold medals in eventing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. “I am very much inspired as a painter and rider by my husband’s riding skills,” Coffin says. “He is, in fact, the model for this painting. A double Olympic gold medalist by the age of 21, he was the beneficiary of an extraordinary and classical education from some of the world’s finest teachers.”
The artist’s love affair with riding began at a young age. “As a rider, I am a grateful recipient of the oral tradition upon which our sport depends,” she says. “Though not born into a ‘horsey’ family, there were a number of adults who generously spent the time to teach me and bring me along in the equestrian traditions,” Coffin continues. “In fact, there are few, if any, horsemen and women who were not helped along by a mentor, parent or grandparent to achieve this skill set and follow their riding dreams. These mentors act as translators for the patient horse that endured our first attempts at riding,” she adds. “For me it was a palomino pony named Starlight. Additional inspiration came from our involvement with recent efforts to bring C.W. Anderson’s book, Billy & Blaze, to the silver screen.” Tad Coffin appears in the film as Billy’s mentor.
“I owe a special thank you to Alexandra Jackson of the Bainbridge Riding School, a gifted teacher of children who encouraged me to submit my work for consideration of the Hampton Classic,” Coffin points out.
The Hampton Classic Horse Show is one of the largest equestrian events in the country. The competition features 1,600 horses competing in 200 hunter, jumper and equitation classes in six rings. Visitors also enjoy a high-end boutique garden with more than 70 vendors, food, drink and more.
You can preorder Kelly Wilkinson Coffin’s 2019 Hampton Classic Horse Show poster and get details about this year’s events at hamptonclassic.com.