Monday, March 14, 2022

Sharing from The California Horse History Project: Original Painting by Rich Rudish

Model horse collectors are familiar with Rich Rudish as the designer of the Breyer horses "Sham" and "Lady Roxana" as well as several horses produced by Enesco. I recently found an early example of Rudish's "flat" art at an antique mall, and wrote about it in my blog California Horse History Project.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Chestnut Arabian by artist Rich Rudish

Every so often a piece of a horse's story will find its way to me, demanding to be told, reminding us of just how important the horse was to the humans who loved him. That happened to me again today, when my Horse Radar went off as I drove towards an antique mall.

When I went inside, I quickly spotted a very special original painting. The first thing I noticed about it was the horse's unmistakable brilliant chestnut color with white markings. He looked like an Arabian.

The second thing I noticed was the artist's signature:
 "RUDISH '65."  

The artist was Rich Rudish. Sold.

But I wondered: Was this a portrait of a real horse? And if so, how could I find out? There were no other identifying marks on the painting, front or back, so I looked for clues from other sources.

Rudish was born in 1941; the painting is dated 1965. So he was only 24 when he painted it.  A Kansas City newspaper article said that Rudish joined Hallmark Cards as an illustrator in 1964, so we know he was active as an artist as a young adult.

With those dates in mind, I started looking for connections between Rudish and Arabian horses. Newspaper articles told me that Rudish rode and trained Arabians in the Midwest in the 1960s. 

After a few minutes' searching online I came up with the name of a horse ridden in a show by Rudish: the chestnut Arabian gelding Zartai, foaled in 1954.

The Clinton, Missouri Eye newspaper,
July 19, 1966.

I kept looking, and found a photo of Zartai from 1967, ridden by none other than Rich Rudish. Zartai had won a Top Ten Award at the Arabian US Nationals.

Belton, Missouri Star-Herald, August 24, 1967

The picture is not great quality, but we can see that Zartai had an oddly shaped blaze on his face...

So does the horse in the painting.

Zartai had two white stockings on his forelegs, and a white sock on his left rear leg...

So does the horse in the painting!

So I think it's highly probable that the horse in the painting is indeed Zartai.  A search of the Arabian Horse DataSource shows that Zartai, foaled in 1954, was sired by Ibn Nusi; his dam was Zatai.

Zartai's pedigree reads like a Who's Who of Arabian horses in the late nineteenth and early to mid twentieth centuries; many of his ancestors were owned by the likes of the Crabbet Arabian Stud, Homer Davenport, W. R. Brown, Spencer Borden, and J. M. Dickinson. As a Top Ten stock horse at the US Nationals, Zartai did his ancestors proud.

It's difficult to single out a few of the important Arabian horses on Zartai's family tree, but here are some. It's interesting that some of these horses were the subjects of other artists' work.

Zartai's great-grandsire Gulastra, a chestnut stallion, was bred by W. R. Brown, and later owned by William Randolph Hearst, J. M. Dickinson, and Bazy Tankersly of Al-Marah Arabians.

And this is Gulastra's portrait by artist Elizabeth Bell. You used to be able to buy prints of her work through the mail; this one was signed.

Zartai's great-great-great-grandsire Mesaoud -- also chestnut -- was purchased in 1889 by Lady Anne Blunt and her husband Wilfrid. He had an enormous influence on the Arabian horse.

Mesaoud was immortalized in this portrait by Gladys Brown Edwards:

Another of Zartai's ancestors was the great and beautiful mare Mahroussa.  Here's a head study photo by Carl Raswan:

A print of a painting of Mahroussa by C. W. Anderson:

And another by Arizona artist Nancy Strowger, reproduced on a greeting card:

Another female ancestor of Zartai was the influential mare Bazrah, who lived out her days in California. W. R. Brown sold her to William Randolph Hearst; she later went to Roy L. Jackson of Orange, California, and died in 1948. (I couldn't find a painting of her, so equine artists, here's your chance.)

Rich Rudish had a varied career. He worked for many years at Hallmark Cards, creating several popular animal characters. My favorite of his greeting card images is a Christmas card with Arabian horses. 

Here are two more examples of Rudish's greeting card designs with horses:

A Hallmark card

An Ambassador card

Rudish served as Director, Art Director, and in the Animation Department on several films in the 1980s, including many of the "Rainbow Brite" animated movies.

Among horse lovers, he is well known as an illustrator of horse books such as Marguerite Henry's Our First Pony, and the 1975 edition of her book The Little Fellow.

Rudish's art appeared on coffee mugs and playing cards. He also illustrated a pop-up book called Dancer and a calendar for Hallmark, as well as a book on the Old West.

Rudish illustrated Arnold R. Rojas'  book These Were the Vaqueros.

He also designed model horses for Breyer, including "Sham" and "Lady Roxana," and also for Enesco.

Cincinnati Enquirer, May 10, 1987

Starting in the 1970s, it was common to see illustrations by Rich Rudish in Arabian horse magazines and horse show programs. You can see his style evolving over the years.

Rudish's sense of humor is obvious
in this illustration in an advertisement.

Rudish's stylized color ads depicting real Arabians are unmistakable.

*Tamarlane and Taktika

*Padron and Bint Padron

Rich Rudish died in Los Angeles in 1989, which may partially explain how the painting of Zartai made its way to an antique mall in next-door Ventura County. Where the painting was in the meantime, we may never know. Perhaps Rudish himself saved it, sold it, or gave it to someone else. However this example of Rudish's early art came to me, I like to think that somehow its story needed to be told, if only to remind us again just how important horses, and our memories of them, are to us.

Many thanks to equine history researcher Tobi Lopez Taylor for her assistance in preparing this blog post.


Because I'm such a fan of the Kellogg Arabians, I want to mention that Zartai is related to the great chestnut Arabian stallion Abu Farwa, foaled at the Kellogg Ranch, through their mutual great-grandsire Gulastra. Here's Abu Farwa.

And a previously unpublished photo of him, owned by model horse hobbyist Melanie Teller:

Model horse artist Chris Nandell wrote this lovely tribute to her friend Rich Rudish: