This was the first painting purchased by Paul Mellon, the founder of the Yale Center for British Art. He and his first wife, Mary, bought it in 1936 from Knoedler’s in New York City. “It was my very first purchase of a painting,” he later recalled, “and could be said to be the impetus toward my later, some might say gluttonous, forays into the sporting art field.” Pumpkin’s owner was the Honorable Thomas Foley, later second Baron Foley, who commissioned this portrait of his champion horse. In twenty-four starts, Pumpkin won sixteen races (many of them at Newmarket) worth 6,090 guineas, and nine hogsheads of claret. In 1772, in his first race, Pumpkin beat the favorite, Denmark, by half a neck. It was thought to be one of the finest races ever run on English turf.
Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2022