Click main image below to view enlargements and captions.

Sporting Art, Horses, Racing, Bill Shoemaker, Famous Jockey, Douglas Warner Gorsline, Oil Painting, c. 1950s


Douglas Warner Gorsline (1913-1985)
[Bill Shoemaker Horse Racing Scenes]
American: c. 1950-1963
Oil on canvas
Signed lower left and on stretcher verso
30 x 23 inches
Provenance: Sheldon Sacks

Lively and colorful multifaceted painting of horse racing scenes, incorporating three portraits of a jockey who by likeness is almost certainly Bill (Willie) Shoemaker (1931-2003), a dominant force in American thoroughbred racing in the mid 20th century. (A photograph of Shoemaker early in his racing career that closely resembles the profile portrait on the right side of the painting is shown above for reference.) This painting is a fine example of the layered composition technique developed by Gorsline in this period of his career; variously juxtaposed fragmentary images include a horse race in progress, a jockey scale, post numbers, the blanket of roses decorating the winner of the Kentucky Derby, and lighted numbers and words from racing scoreboards.


Gorsline inscribed the back of the stretcher with his abbreviated address, which included a two-digit zone (23) rather than a five-digit zip code. Zip codes replaced the zone system in July 1963, dating this painting to prior to that date. He began an association with Sports Illustrated in 1962, possibly an inspiration for this sporting work.

Bill Shoemaker is among the all-time great American jockeys, with an impressive set of statistics, including having won more races than all but one jockey in history and having a winning percentage of 22% of the over 40,000 races he rode. His career was also unusual in length, spanning the years between 1949 and 1990. He was America’s leading jockey in terms of money ten different years and in terms of number of races won five years. He rode in 24 Kentucky Derby races, winning four times, and won the Preakness twice and the Belmont five times. He also rode the winners of more than 1,000 other stakes races.

Douglas Gorsline was an American artist and illustrator. He was born in Rochester, New York, and attended Yale Art School for a year before switching to the Art Students’ League, which he found more congenial to his interests. As a young artist in the 1930s, he was influenced by the American Scene genre of painting and produced scenes of urban life. His father-in-law at the time, the prominent editor Maxwell Perkins, provided entrée to clients in the publishing world, and Gorsline was busy with book illustrations during the late 1930s and through the 1940s, ultimately illustrating over two dozen books. He painted Thomas Wolfe’s portrait and illustrated Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward Angel. He also illustrated a number of historical books for young readers and a 1975 edition of Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas.

In the mid 1950s, Gorsline changed his style to one less strictly tied to conventions of realist art, instead layering multiple images in a single frame to capture the feeling of movement and different moments of time within a single image. He cited as influences Cubism and the experimental motion paintings of Marcel Duchamp such as Nude Descending a Staircase. In 1962, he began a long association with Sports Illustrated. Gorsline was a member of the National Academy of Design and taught there before moving to France in 1964. After the move, however, he continued to exhibit in American museums and provide illustrations for American publications. Over his long career, Gorsline exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Butler Institute of Art, to name a few. The Musée Gorsline was established by his widow in 1994 in Bussy-le-Grand, France.

The offered painting was formerly in the collection of Sheldon Sacks (1933-2004), an American illustrator and art professor who was close to Gorsline and considered him a mentor.

Signed on back of stretcher bar: Property of Gorsline 41 CPW NYC 23.

Condition: Generally very good — the colors bright and clean — with the usual minor overall toning, wear, loosening of canvas on stretcher. Simple frame.


“Douglas Gorsline'[s] Life.” Musée Gorsline. 2012-16. (10 June 2016).

Durso, Joseph. “Bill Shoemaker, Hall of Fame Jockey, Dies at 72.” New York Times. (10 June 2016).

“Sheldon Sacks.” Society of Illustrators. 25 May 2010. (10 June 2016).

Sheppard, Sara. “Douglas Gorsline.” Sullivan Goss. 2015. (10 June 2016).

Additional information


20th Century