For an artist, traveling to new and unusual places can stir creativity and help influence the direction one’s art takes. Whether it’s meeting new and interesting people or discovering new subject matter to paint, both help invigorate the soul and help inspire. It can be as simple as a two night trip to the Welbourne Farm in Middleburg, Virginia!
I always say that if I get one quality photograph of a scene that I would like to paint, from any photographic outing, then the trip has been a success business wise.
The original part of the estate was built way back in the 1700’s, with several “newer” additions in the early 1800’s. We knew we were heading into a very old, historic home, currently owned and operated by 8th generation family members, Nat and Sherry. We had heard that they have a large number of dogs on the property including hound dogs.
Cocktail hour the first night featured cocktails in the front parlor, hosted by Nat, and featured two rather large hound dogs sleeping in the middle of the floor on their beds and several large dogs, one who was wrestling the entire time with a one-eyed Jack Russell terrier named Pearl! Tails were flying, paws were swatting, and teeth were bared, all in good fun. All the while, we were introduced to friends and family members, and the conversation touched on some of the family history including Civil War stories involving the Welbourne home and surrounding area.
Mr. Morison, known to always call people by their proper name, offered all their drink of choice while personally choosing an aptly named bourbon on the rocks, Virginia Gentleman. He proved to be a true Virginia gentleman. Sherry, always joins the guests during the wonderful country breakfast served every morning. Full of life, she lights up the room with her warm, friendly and very real personality.
Col. Richard Henry Dulany, C.S.A., the great, great grandfather of Nat, founded the nation’s oldest foxhunting club, The Piedmont Hunt in 1840, and to this day Welbourne is the starting point of the annual hunt. Riders in red coats all gather to start the ceremonial hunt in front of the Welbourne estate. I was told that these days the fox is most often released unharmed, which I was most glad to hear as an animal lover.
The 500+ acre farm is home to 83 horses at this time. They take horses from all around the country that need caring for. The horses roam freely over the rolling hills of the Middleburg farm. We walked the property and at one point we both were a little nervous, as one of the beautiful, white horses started poking his nose in my camera bag, perhaps looking for an apple or some carrots.
I took a number of photographs of the old barns, the horses and of the homestead. Artists looking for old, rustic and weathered farm equipment and barns would love some of the scenery. I was particularly struck by a scene of two horses resting by a fence.
Among the guests during our stay were an author, a poet, a photographer, a jazz lover and another artist. It’s no wonder that the guest list at the Welbourne includes the famous writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. Both were so moved by their stay that they included the Welbourne in their writings.
The main home was full of antiques, generations of family portraits, bookshelves full of old books, and artifacts from all around the world, including a very interesting and extensive collection of giraffe miniatures.
Our all-too short visit to Middleburg made me want to read about the local history and grateful to have crossed paths with such special people. An artist could spend an entire lifetime painting the Middleburg countryside and be quite content.
What more could one ask for from a quick two day trip!
The Saturday morning following our trip was the annual foxhunt. I regret having missed such a colorful and unique photographic opportunity. I’ve viewed a number of fantastic large-scale, foxhunt paintings at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and would have loved to experience such an event in person.
As it is, I can only imagine the pageantry that morning and the unmistakeable echoing sound of the hounds reverberating over the Middleburg hills and throughout the valleys as the call went out to “Release the hounds”.