A brush with art history in the stands at the National Western Stock Show once again shows just how small our Western horse world really is.

By Christine Hamilton
January 21, 2017

ch 2017 NWSS Sarah PhippenSculptor and painter Sarah Phippen is carrying on the Western art legacy of her legendary grandfather, George Phippen.

“You’re with Western Horseman? Then you know who my grandfather is.”

The speaker was a young woman with a pretty smile, wearing a wide-brimmed palm leaf hat and glasses. It was Tuesday, January 17, in the stands of the events center at the 2017 National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, during the National Reined Cow Horse show.

I had slipped down a stairwell looking for a different angle on the arena for my camera, and she was sitting at its base with her own camera and a small, neat pile of painting supplies.

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It turned out were both honing skills. I was working on my timing by shooting the open herd work. She was practicing her plein air painting, putting paint to canvas in the moment.

She pulled out a sketch of a dark brown horse in the wash rack out back that captured the light and water on the horse’s hide just beautifully. My “story” nose itched…so, who was her grandfather?

“George Phippen,” she said brightly. “My name is Sarah Phippen.”

George Phippen! My mind flashed back to my visit to the George Phippen Museum in Prescott, Arizona, where I pored over the cowboy’s authentic sketches, paintings and bronzes.

The Arizona painter and sculptor is a legend in the Western art world as an original founder and first president of the Cowboy Artists of America. He’s credited with more than 3,000 known works, many of which ended up on the cover of Western Horseman. The magazine even commissioned him to create three iconic images we still use in marketing.

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How amazing that right in front of me was his granddaughter. She’s carrying on his legacy as a painter and sculptor from her home in Sedalia, Colorado. Her work is beautiful; see it for yourself at her website.

It’s just one more reason why I tend to stop and listen when horse people say something along the lines of, “Do you know who so-and-so is?” Of course I could, because it’s a small Western Horseman world out there.

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