Pierre Bellocq, the internationally celebrated artist better known as “Peb,” was joined by officials from Keeneland and Daily Racing Form Oct. 15 to announce the donation of nearly a half-century of his humorous caricatures and equine cartoons to the Keeneland Library.
The collection of Peb’s works, which have graced the front covers and pages of the Form since 1955, will be housed at the Keeneland Library where they will ultimately be available for public view. The collection includes approximately 4,000 original works of art, including caricatures of racing luminaries, both human and equine, as well as cartoons celebrating major racing events.
“Peb has been called ‘the turf world’s Michelangelo,’ and Keeneland is truly honored to become the caretaker of these distinctive works of art,” said Keeneland president Nick Nicholson. “For more than 50 years, Peb has masterfully entertained racing fans worldwide with his wonderful spirit and unique talent. His work has been a very special gift to Thoroughbred racing.”
Peb’s relationship with Keeneland, which is saluting the artist Oct. 15 with Peb Day at the track, dates back more than 25 years, to when he first sketched notable personalities at the 1983 Keeneland July Selected Yearling Sale.
“Keeneland is like heaven for me,” Peb said. “It’s a place where I was always sketching caricatures and visiting very dear friends. To know that my work will be protected at the Keeneland Library is one of the highlights of my life.”
Born Pierre Camille Lucien Hilaire Jean Bellocq on Nov. 25, 1926, in Bedenac, France, the 82-year old Peb has been having fun at the racetrack with his brush for more than half a century. The son of a French horse trainer who grew up in the Paris suburb of Maisons-Laffitte, Peb has been sketching horse racing professionally since 1945.
Peb came to America aboard a cargo plane in 1952, accompanying a French filly that was to run in the Washington, D.C., International at Maryland’s Laurel Park. He was invited by organizer John D. Schapiro to create a logo, program cover and posters to promote the race.
He remained in the United States and in 1955, J. Samuel Perlman, publisher of the two Walter Annenberg-owned newspapers, The Morning Telegraph, and Daily Racing Form, hired Peb to do a weekly racing sketch. On April 1 of that year, Peb’s first sketch appeared in The Morning Telegraph, coinciding with the opening of Jamaica Racetrack in New York. His cartoons and caricatures quickly become popular with readers, and Perlman signed him to a full-time contract.
Peb continues to do sketches for the Form and Paris-Turf, one of his first employers.
“Peb’s keen eye, sharp wit, and artistry have told the stories of the Thoroughbred for over half a century, and Daily Racing Form readers continue to enjoy Peb’s front-page sketches during racing’s biggest days,” said John Hartig, Daily Racing Form CEO. “We could think of no better partner to preserve and house this priceless collection in perpetuity than Keeneland.”
Proceeds from marketing and merchandising efforts related to Peb’s art will be used to maintain and preserve the collection and further the work of other equine artists and related scholarship.
Peb’s works represent the second major collection donated by the Form to the Keeneland Library. In 2000, the Form donated its entire archival collection of newspapers, including the Morning Telegraph. That collection is now in the process of being digitized.