Lucy Elizabeth Kemp Welch was born in Bournemouth in 1869. She studied at the famous Herkomer School of Art at Bushey under its founder Hubert von Herkomer. Her achievements there were reflected in the fact that she took over the school in 1905.
She found success as an animal painter and more specifically in her representation of horses, for which she showed particular empathy and understanding.
Gypsy Horse Drovers was her first work to be exhibited at the Royal Academy and painted whilst still a student at Bushey. She was inspired to produce this painting when she spotted a long procession of horses being driven up a muddy road. She rushed after the group, gathering up her palate and the nearest thing on which to make a sketch. This turned out to be the wooden top of her paint box. She later transferred the sketch to canvas. In the collection, we also have the board she painter her initial sketch on.
Merton was a keen admirer of Kemp-Welsh, whom he recalled, “sprang up in a phenomenal way a few years ago, making her mark instantly… I have in the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery two of Miss Welch’s finest pictures; in fact the one that created the first recognition of her skill and obtained for her great commendation.”