Oil on canvas, 24” x 29”
Signed and dated
Provenance: Painted for Capt. Willa Viley, Scott County, Ky Mrs. Churchill, Mr. Richard Baylor Hickman, Family Decent
Literature: MacKay-Smith, A., The Race Horses of America, Saratoga Springs, The National Museum of Racing, 1981
New York, NY, Newhouse Galleries, Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Edward Troye, Nov. 15-26, 1938 No. 28
Richard Singleton was a champion racehorse owned by Colonel Willa Viley. Viley was one of the most important people in the formation of Thoroughbred racing in Kentucky, helping form the Kentucky Association and owning and breeding several champions. His farm near Georgetown was the base for all of his operations. Richard Singleton was among the horses that gave Viley prominence. He started in 14 four-mile-heat races and won all but two. In one noted race he ran 16 miles, winning three heats out of five.
Troye painted Richard Singleton twice before he completed this painting, and those earlier two, virtually identical, are considered Troye’s finest works. William Elsey Connelley, in his History of Kentucky, Vol. 5, writes that when the initial portrait was painted, Richard Singleton was “undoubtedly the greatest racehorse in Kentucky.”
This is a later portrait, showing the horse after his retirement to stud. Alexander Mackay-Smith, the leading scholar of Troye, describes this painting as “a later portrait of Richard Singleton as a stallion, showing the horse perhaps 200 pounds heavier, in breeding condition, and with more crest to his neck.” Richard Singleton as a stallion was more important as a dam sire, though the colt Monkey Dick performed well in 1839. His bloodline, through his daughters Greasy Heel and Mary Brennan, extends to the present day.
Richard Singleton was, in all likelihood, named for Colonel Richard Singleton, a South Carolinian and one of the pillars of Thoroughbred racing and breeding in that region. He was described as an excellent judge of horses and tactful in the placement of his horses in races. His success as a breeder is also described by Irving: “At one time the produce of Col. Singleton’s stud were accustomed to bringing the best prices and be sought after with avidity by all who were either engaged upon the Turf, or were anxious to make their debut with some credit on it.”
A prominent member of South Carolina society, the colonel owned more than 12,000 acres and numerous boats to transport his cotton to England. His daughter married the son of President Martin Van Buren and was very popular in Washington society. Singleton’s horses raced in New Orleans, Charleston, and Saratoga. Singleton hosted Troye at his elegant plantation, known as Melrose or Singleton Hall, near Camden in the spring of 1934. There, Troye painted five of Singleton’s horses, a large commission for the artist.
When Troye first went to Lexington in the autumn of 1834, he brought with him three of the five paintings he’d painted for Richard Singleton and displayed them in the lobby of the Phoenix Hotel. It is likely that Willa Viley was one of his first patrons in Kentucky, either through a letter of introduction from Colonel Richard Singleton or through Troye’s paintings in the Phoenix Hotel.