Acclaimed British artist Harold Riley’s subjects have included Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, assorted popes and various royals. On golf his artistic credentials are simply nonpareil. He followed Hogan at Camoustie, and first saw the young Nicklaus as a prodigious amateur. Annually attending the Open Championship for decades, he’d often sketch luminaries on envelopes and programs, following championship golf with the zeal of both artist and fan.
Riley delights in finding stillness alongside spectacle. Thus, in a study of Tom Kite, with a meticulous and accurate rendering of his grip, there’s also the delicate pencil sketch of a little girl (“blond”) sitting atop a range bucket (” red”) watching her father hit bunker shots. In “Nicklaus Walking,” the riveting ‘Bear stare’ looms like storm clouds over the Old Course as the solitary figure crosses the Swilcan Bridge during a practice round. And only the most highly sensitive golf radar would fully appreciate the jotting down of: “Elegant and exciting follow-through,” about Crenshaw’s vintage swing.
Local golfer and philanthropist Joan Whitworth was an Austin Women’s Golf Association president, and a strong advocate and supporter of Longhorn golf. Her bequest includes some exquisite local color: Harvey Penick intently signs a copy of his famous manifesto. The intimate portrait personifies the legendary teacher’s care and consideration and exemplifies Riley’s extraordinary eye. When it comes to golf, Harold Riley is not so much visiting artist as artist in residence.