by Emme Nelson Baxter
When Virginia-based artist Lee Baskerville was in Nashville last May at the Iroquois Steeplechase, he entertained hope that one of his paintings would someday be selected as “the look” of the iconic event.
This fall, Baskerville learned he had been chosen by the Volunteer State Horsemen’s Race Committee as featured artist for the 72nd running of the Iroquois. His painting Kinetic Energy is being reproduced on invitations, collectable posters and t-shirts, and myriad other print pieces. The 30” x 40” oil painting on Belgian linen depicts a Steeplechase jockey in silks in the moments before the race begins. The background is the pasture on the east of the racetrack. There is a tension to the horse, like a bow about to be sprung. Poignantly, the artist was inspired by the late champion Arcadius, whose final race Baskerville was on hand to photograph.
Kinetic Energy will be auctioned prior to the race. Baskerville’s works range from $5,000 for a sketch up to $50,000 for a large portrait. “It is a very nice partnership and one that increases the artist’s exposure as well as creating a beautiful look for our various visibility pieces each year,” says Libby Cheek, executive director of the Iroquois Steeplechase. The contemporary realist artist is an avid rider and foxhunter. “I find you always do better when you paint what you know,” Baskerville says.
Baskerville’s potential as a fine artist manifested early. His father, who was in the international safari business, helped land him a gig illustrating a brochure for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Baskerville was in middle school at the time.
“That ingrained in me that this could be a business as much as a rewarding, creative pastime,” he says. Tens of thousands of Middle Tennesseans will soon become quite familiar with Baskerville’s work. The Iroquois Steeplechase—Music City’s annual rite of spring—attracts some 25,000 spectators each year. Since 1982, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has been the official charity of the event, receiving more than $9 million from event proceeds.