Three of his portraits stand twenty feet high
and sixty feet across in downtown Moscow. The
Queen of England owns one of his paintings. He
is currently in the process of preparing a 12-foot
by 120-foot mural for the new Paris Hotel in Las
Fred Stone is the artist. Nearly seventy, he’s
a tall, broad shouldered man with a bushy gray
mustache. When art critics describe his portraits
they talk about the “determination,” “dignity,”
“soul,” and the “elegance and emotion” he captures
in his subjects. It is appropriate that he lives
in “horse country” - in Old Agoura, with equine
trails for sidewalks and paddocks and riding rings
for back yards – because the portraits he paints
are most often not of men but of horses. Thoroughbreds
like Cigar, Man O’War, and Secretariat. The Chicago
Tribune once called him “the most famous painter
of horses in the world.”
Fred Stone grew up in Los Angeles, attended Fairfax
High, and wanted to be a professional ball player.
He had a talent he says and recalled one of his
proudest moments at age sixteen.
“I pitched for the LA City champions against
the world champion St. Louis Browns. I had a perfect
game, a no hitter going into the ninth inning.”
He won that game but it was also the end of his
Fred Stone carried that desire for perfection
into his study of art. He graduated from the Los
Angeles Art Center School and for awhile he worked
as a magazine artist.
“I was good,” he explained, “But I wasn’t prolific.
I couldn’t produce fast enough. I’m very slow.
Like Vermeer, the Dutch painter, I can only do
three or four paintings a year."
He went to work for the studios from 1954-60
as a scenic painter. But he was still too meticulous,
too slow, and despite his love for art, he had
to quit painting to earn a living. Fred Stone
went to work as a salesman with his brother, a
successful entrepreneur. After his daughter graduated
college, she went on to a job working at
racetracks. Inviting him to visit behind the scenes
one day, Fred Stone began to paint again. He discovered
his forte and found his fame in painting the drama
of a race, the special character of a champion
horse and a winning rider. But before becoming
acknowledged as the most successful painter of
thoroughbred racing in the world,
Fred Stone spent sixteen years working for his
brother selling the latest in flushing
toilets for aircraft and marine craft. It may
seem strange but he credits those years as a
salesman selling ignominious toilets for his success
today as an artist.
“Artists sit alone in garrets and paint,"
Stone explained. It’s a lonely job. Few, even
the most talented, succeed commercially because
few ever learn how to sell themselves and their
art. Fred Stone knew not only how to paint. After
sixteen years as a salesman, he knew how to sell.
And today his work is hung in hotels, racetracks,
and casinos, in the homes of Queens and the giants