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A new artist you need to know: Sophie Harden

One of Britain’s brightest young artists exhibited at The Osborne Gallery, Belgravia this month. The event sparked attention from both a British and international audience. Sophie Harden certainly made her mark on the London scene with art lovers, buying for both inspiration and investment.

The Osborne Studio Gallery has a long pedigree specialising in equestrian and racing art, showing contemporary works by world-class artists. Around 40 artists are represented at the gallery along with bronzes and sculptures adding a 3-D element to the exhibits. Yet this month, the artist in residence was Sophie Harden. Henry & James is proud to sponsor ‘Behind the Scenes of Racing’ at the gallery on Motcomb Street, Belgravia, London SW1X.

We talked to Sophie about horses, houses and her inspirations both on and off the racecourse.

Q: How did you first get started in the world of art? 

A: I used to work in marketing, where I would paint in my spare time. Then I decided to take voluntary redundancy from my job, re-invented myself and started exhibiting at private shows. There was lots of positive feedback; that was about 18-months ago. Since then, I have gone from strength to strength.

Q: Tell us a little about your new art collection?  

A:  The inspiration from my latest exhibition, ‘Behind the Scenes of Racing’, at The Osborne Gallery, came from a number of sources. I visited both Newmarket and Lambourn, spending time in the yards going behind the scenes. I also ride myself, which is another great source of inspiration.

Q: How did you first become interested in horses?  

A: From an early age, my mother and two older sisters introduced me to horses. I rode a horse before I could walk. That was thanks to my sister, who thought I was a doll, so plonked me on a horse, which I fell off. I never looked back and still ride today.

Q: How do you keep horses still when painting them? Is there an art to it?   

A: Yes, some horses are better behaved than others. For portraits, it is better when a horse looks into the distance, but there are a couple of techniques that work, too. Sometimes the owner will throw grass into the air or whistle to make the horse look up. My other secret is to play a YouTube video with horses trotting or clip, clipping along a road. This usually works.

Races are quite different. I sit and watch for hours to capture the sense of movement and excitement.

Taking up the Bridle 40x30cm Oil on Paper (1) low

Q: What has been the most famous horse you have painted over the years? 

A: This is a tough one. It would have to be Big Orange, who won Ascot last year. I paused the live footage and sketched for about an hour, with black paper and white chalk to capture the moment. I gifted the painting to the owners of Big Orange, the Gredley Family.

Q: If you could paint any other famous horses – which horse would it be?

A: It would have to be Frankel. He is an amazing horse. Although, I have seen him in the flesh, he has such presence. Frankel is a top stallion.

Q: Do you also paint jockeys and their owners, or do you prefer to paint horses for the time being?

A: I would like to paint jockeys further down the line. Perhaps, I will paint Frankie Dettori one day!

Q: What do you like about London?

A: I love the buzz of London, where people are never very far away. There is always a new restaurant, bar or place to discover. I enjoy the capital’s fast pace.

Q: Describe your dream home?

A: I would love a small farm, a farmhouse, a manège and a landscape with rolling hills. A London penthouse and a ski chalet in the Alps, would make perfect dream homes, too.

Q: What is the most important room in the house for you and why? 

A: The kitchen is the hub of the home for me. It is where my husband and I have conversations and put the world to rights.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you take with you? 

A: My first indulgence would be a pot of Marmite – I can’t live without it. The second thing, would probably be paper for sketching with some painting equipment. It might get a bit boring on the desert island, so I would take my horse to keep me entertained, too. And if I was allowed, I would take my iPhone, as I like to paint and keep the spirit alive with music. What would music would I play? Definitely, Coldplay.

Q: If you could go back in time – which year would you choose? 

A:  I would go to the roaring Twenties for the parties and the fun. It is a breakaway from the conservative of the Victorians. I suppose I am still wild at heart.

Q: Who are the most inspirational people in your life? 

A: There is one person: my late father. He would say “Take every opportunity that you can. Try to pick yourself up after every hurdle and keep going to get back on top.”

Q: Looking back – what has been the highlight of your career?

A: The highlight has to be the launch at The Osborne Gallery in Motcomb Street. There are few things as exhilarating as watching your artwork flying off the wall. This was really inspiring.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to break into the world of art? 

A: Keep painting. Take every opportunity, whether big or small. I first exhibited at a country show in Morteon in Marsh. There was plenty of mud and rain, but I sold a number of paintings. So, don’t give up and keep developing your style. Although, you might need to give up your social life and throw everything into it.

  • Discover more of Sophie Harden’s work at The Osborne Gallery, Motcomb Street, Belgravia, London SW1X 8JU. Henry & James is sponsoring ‘Behind the Scenes of Racing’, which runs until April 23.
  • Visit Sophie’s website at or follow her on social media:
  • Instagram: @sophiehardenart
  • Facebook: @sophiehardenart
  • Twitter: @sctholmes