The cottage emits aromas of linseed oil and acrylic paint. Colors are settled neatly around the room in anxious containers, awaiting the chance to become fine art. The inspired energy in the studio is surrounded by sketches of royal equines. Elegant, finished paintings inhabit the room’s circumference. A world-renowned equine artist works in this humble studio. She greets us into her creative realm.
From Paris, France, Frédérique Lavergne is a world renowned equine artist. Now living in Bayonne, France, she is in the process of painting a Criollo with traditional tack. With brush in hand, Frédérique smiles as she glances at her work. Her artistic abilities arrived at the age of four. She has been drawing since she knew how to place her little finger in the mud. Frédérique remembers, “My mother was a designer and I saw her drawing throughout my childhood. When we went to visit our horses at the stable in Rambouillet forest, which is close to Paris, we stayed there for the weekend. My parents used to go for long rides in the forest, and I stayed at the stable with the horses. I learned to ride and began drawing horses there.”
Growing up with creative equestrian parents, Frédérique learned early how to paint and ride. She learned the smells, the mess, the struggle to control the uncontrollable urge to paint horses; the special knowledge only painters keep of how colors will blend and mix, the magic of a horse’s heart, soul and chemistry and capturing it on canvas. “I paint horses first because I feel a strong link to them,” explains Frédérique. “When I paint I am absent from this world. I don’t talk a lot and I realized very young that horses talk with their soul. I find them beautiful, of course, but I am fascinated by their powerful soul, by their generosity to humans. They have a symbolic force and, from my convictions, they are able to go from one world to another, from our human world to the one of invisible. That’s why they help us to know who we are.”
Frédérique has painted many horse breeds, including Lusitanos, Arabians, Friesians, Paso Finos, and Mangalargas Marchadores, to name a few. Her beautiful paintings announce and proclaim the grandeur of each horse. A palette of indigo, sepia, crimson lack, madder brown, brown pink, and many other royal colors comes together in layers of light and dark to create a masterpiece. Defining the horse’s hide, their neck highlights and facial shapes takes precision brush marks. Frédérique’s work is more than horses and their story, but just as important is the amount and feel of the brush marks for each breed. “I have no favorite breed to paint. I love to paint expressive horses. Andalusians are very expressive. They are the horses I paint the most. But I have recently discovered Marwaris, Kathiawaris and really fell in love with them. I hope to go to India soon to meet them in person. They look so magical. I am really impressed by the way they carry their head. However, I can paint all horses because I feel connected to all of them. Do they have a common soul? There are some horses that don’t open the door easily, and sometimes it takes more time for me to get in the work, but, finally, I have never given up with any of them. This must seem silly, but I often feel to be more horse than human.”
Attempting to paint every horse breed, Frédérique’s sumptuous art spans the horse world. “I unfortunately paint more often from pictures because the horses I paint are very far from me – Pakistan, India, Australia and USA. But as often as I can, I bring my studio to the stables. When I paint from photos, I like to see several and then I compose. The ‘look’ of the horse from one picture and the ‘attitude’ of the horse from another, create a stellar image of grace and strength. To get inspiration you need to have something to say in the painting, and in a perfect photo, all is already said.”
The internet has made a significant impact on contacting clients, viewing horses, and reaching otherwise unreachable horse breeds. “Through my website I’ve been able to contact art galleries to submit my work. Galleries that currently exhibit my work from internet referral include the Chisholm Gallery, Pine Plains, New York, USA and Greenlane Gallery, Dingle Kerry, Ireland. The internet has changed my way of considering equine art. Before, I painted horses that I had seen in person, most of them Spanish horses because one of my friends is a pure Spanish breeder and I painted his horses. When I joined the internet, I wished to discover horses, horsemen, and equine cultures from all over the world. That’s how I started painting Desi horses of Pakistan, then Indian horses, etc. I discovered that horses that had been a door to the unconscious became my door to the world,” says Frédérique.
Monica Michele Brown from Kuwait City fell in love with Frédérique’s fine art and commissioned a portrait. Monica says, “Frédérique’s amazing portrait of my friend Prince Malik Ata and his stunning dancing horse is one of my most cherished possessions; she has a wonderful talent for expressing the beauty and power of horses.”
Frédérique’s global exhibition of "Horses of the World and Equine Cultures" is dedicated to equine cultures and horse lovers of the world. This exhibition will be showcased in the near future at the Haras Nationaux, Lamballe, France. Currently, she is preparing for her exhibition represented by La Galerie du Cheval. Frédérique says, “My next equine exhibition is in France, la Baule, at the International Jumping Competition May 10 through May13. Sharing and painting is my reason for living. To do all these paintings, horse lovers from all over the world lent their photos to me as reference. I wish to thank them. I would love to travel and meet the horses and the people I am in touch with for this project.”
The sunset bows through the studio window. A day of manipulating light, shadows, and expressions add essence to canvas. “Who made me a better painter? Who will make me a better painter? Horses of course!” exclaims Frédérique. “They teach me my job everyday. The mystery we can see in their eyes makes me try to become a better painter and to try in each new painting to put more soul. Each time I paint a horse, it is like I take a little step toward sacred.”