Thad Leland's diligence to study equestrians continued with his painting and sketching of polo events at Pebble Beach. His life, artwork and equestrian endeavors are chronicled by his total works of over 70 sketches, drawings and paintings. His aesthetic awareness reflects a life of social involvement, cultural sensitivity and adventure.
Working in pastels, oils, acrylics, and watercolors, Thad Leland left a beautiful legacy of the spirit and tradition of the horse, its cultural harness and how man interacts with this spirit.
It all started for Leland when he was a boy in Michigan, exercising the fine horses of Detroit millionaires. He went home and sketched these horses, which began the lifelong journey to recreate the spirit and beauty of the horse.
Thad Emory Leland was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1914 and passed away in Pebble Beach, California, in 1987. He studied art at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, received a B.A. in fine art from the University of Michigan where he studied with Sarkis Sarkisian and John Carroll.
Before the war, he exhibited throughout Wisconsin and Michigan, and was awarded a mural commission for the New York World's Fair. After World War II he received a masters degree in fine art from Stanford University.
During World War II, despite his involvement in combat with the first naval assault group on Guadalcanal, his passion for painting thrived. Begging and stealing paints, he resumed murals on various military buildings, as well as doing portraits of various commanding officers working under all kinds of conditions including air raids.
A decision to move to Peru influenced his painting for the rest of his life. He moved with his sister and her husband to Lima where he lived for the next 13 years. There, amid Peru's aristocratic society and foreign service community, he became a constant presence exhibiting at the British and American Cultural Institutes. His keen interest in the horse was sparked with the discovery of the Peruvian Paso. Watching this ancient breed perform it's spirited unique gait with rider in full Peruvian regalia awakened images of the original conquistadors.
In Peru, Thad Leland, became driven to paint and sketch, perfecting his technique and studying the horse's form and movement. "There is only time... for the love of painting and drawing that you profess to love," Leland commented in his notes. He threw himself into understanding the ways of Peru and the Paso. Searching for traditions surrounding the Pasos, he ventured to all corners of the country from the Amazon to the mountains recording the fascinating Peruvian lifestyle.
Returning to the United States in the early 60s, his diligence to study equestrians continued with his painting and sketching of polo events at Pebble Beach, thoroughbred racing at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate tracks, and western riding events at the Salinas Rodeo and Monterey County Fair. He became sought after for commissioned portraiture. In addition to painting, he returned to riding and training horses, willing to help with behavioral problems or lend a hand during foaling.
His life, artwork and equestrian endeavors are chronicled by his total works of over 70 sketches, drawings and paintings. His aesthetic awareness reflects a life of social involvement, cultural sensitivity and adventure. During his final years he continued to sketch and paint horses, and in an article in the San Jose Mercury News they stated, "for he loves and understands them and thinks they are beautiful."