Priscilla Menzies, equine painter

Artist painted Native Dancer, Secretariat and other thoroughbreds and won a championship at the Elkridge Club

September 08, 2014|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Priscilla Fuller Menzies, an equine painter whose subjects included the fabled thoroughbreds Native Dancer and Secretariat, died of complications from a stroke Aug. 24 at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The former Butler resident was 94.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Pikesville and Upperco, she was the daughter of Perry Wade Fuller, a stamp and coin dealer, and Anita Sherwood Fuller, a sports enthusiast. She was a 1938 graduate of Garrison Forest School. She earned a bachelor's degree at what is now the Maryland Institute College of Art and studied with Jacques Maroger, a French-born painter who explored the own paint medium using old techniques and had been on the staff of the Louvre.

In 2005, Mrs. Menzies was inducted into the MICA Members Guild for recognition of her achievements in the arts.

Growing up in rural Baltimore County, she developed an affection for horses and rode at an early age. A neighbor, Harry Straus, an electrical and early computer engineer who founded the American Totalisator Co., which made the wagering equipment used at racetracks, befriended her family. She accompanied Mr. Straus, a noted Maryland sportsman, and his wife, Jeannette, to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and became immersed in the late 1930s thoroughbred racing scene. From 1940 to 1942, she was secretary for the Carrollton Hounds, a riding association that Mr. Straus supported.

According to the records of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, she joined the staff of its publication, The Maryland Horse, in 1941. She worked in its editorial offices.

"Despite being the artist who painted some of the most notable horses in the industry, Mrs. Menzies remained an unpretentious and down-to-earth person," said Cricket Goodall, a friend who is executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "She was a great artist and was totally involved in the horse industry."

In 1942, she married John T. Menzies Jr., who joined his father at the Crosse & Blackwell Co., the fancy food and condiment business that the Menzies family brought to Baltimore from England. Her husband became president of Crosse & Blackwell and oversaw operation of its Eastern Avenue manufacturing plant.

Family members said that when her husband was assigned to Bedford, N.Y., after Crosse & Blackwell had been purchased by Nestle, she painted sports scenes on porcelain china. She fired her pieces, which she sold through the mail and New York shops. She also continued her portrait work.

Alfred Gwynn Vanderbilt Jr., the grandson of Bromo Seltzer founder Isaac Emerson and a member of the New York railroading family, commissioned her to paint his Native Dancer, the thoroughbred stabled at his Sagamore Farm in Glyndon. She went on to paint portraits of Secretariat, Funny Cide and Barbaro.

"My mother also painted humans, bank presidents and generals, but she loved horses and because she studied their anatomy, she was also a good judge of a good horse," said her daughter, Priscilla Menzies Keller of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. "She was also a funny, wise, gentle and generous person. She was a great storyteller. She had the gift of timing."

Mrs. Menzies enjoyed a range of sports. She skied, played tennis, fox hunted, sailed and rode for pleasure. More than 30 years ago, she began playing golf and won the Elkridge Ladies Senior Championship.

She and her husband had a 20-acre farm on Western Run Road, where they raised horses. They called it Last Chance Stables and joined with other Baltimoreans, Walter and Nan Pinkard and Wallace and Betty Lanahan, in a friendly business venture.

"They bred and raised numerous race horses and won at various tracks in the Northeast," her daughter said. "In 1984, their red colt named Nicator won the Maryland Breeders Cup."

Mrs. Menzies spent the winter in the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. There she sailed, snorkeled and fished. Nearly eight years ago, she left her farm and resided at the Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 27 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas Lane in Owings Mills.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Scott Menzies of Upperco; and 13 grandchildren. A son, John "Jock" Menzies, died in 2013. Another son, Michael Menzies, died this year. Her husband of 58 years died in 2000.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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