About Donald R. Schwartz (1931-2010):

Donald R. Schwartz was an active artist for almost 60 years, who specialized in the fine equine art of thoroughbred racehorses.


As a young child in Pittsburgh he won a lifetime membership in the Humane Society for a painting of an injured dog. His love of animals (particularly horses and dogs) grew throughout his life as he continued painting both. His dogs were always loved and very spoiled. His love for mankind was deep though tempered by political indignation, leading him to focus on healing people with alternative medicine techniques. He was ordained as a healer "Reverend Donald Schwartz" and served those in need with his practice of energy-healing, and he was always generous in giving of his time and self.

His father gave him rides in a biplane when he was young, and created his love of flight. When the Korean War broke out, he chose to serve in the Air Force and was happy to be stationed at Edwards AFB where he worked as a mechanic with the most experimental aircraft of the day such as the X-1A. He maintained his pilots license for small private aircraft into the 1990's, and flew many times into the Yucatan in search of rare orchids and butterflies with his close friend who collected them. He designed and built ultra-light rubber band powered model airplanes, as well as heavier gliders such as one crafted after the Zanonia seed's shape. His aviation artwork is consequently very specific. The small jet painting he made for his mantle place was not a generic nor common small jet, but a specific make and model that he admired. In his last decades, he researched a variety of aircraft, for example in 2008 he wrote San Diego to recommend purchase of a BE-200ES firefighting airplane rather than more helicopters.

His professional career as an artist began in the early 1950's when he completed his training at the prestigious "Art Center School of Design" in Los Angeles. He focused on automotive design while there, and had the chance to work with Harley Earl, the man who designed the first Corvette. Upon graduation he met Dr. Larr who offered him a job building custom telescopes in Pasadena. The two became lifelong friends for the next 50 years. They moved to Denver Colorado and established Larr Optics which produced lenses for many government contracts such as the Mariner 9 space probe. His engineering drawings of custom apparatus were essential to the business. They retired from Larr Optics in the mid 1960's and returned to California, eventually settling in Olivenhain. At that time this was a largely wilderness area east of Encinitas, and he enjoyed the red-tailed hawks, and other wildlife at his doorstep. He continued to design ingenious contraptions around the home throughout his life, but while in Denver he discovered his real passion -- equine art (see below).

Dr. Larr knew the daughter of the famous Egyptologist, James Henry Breasted, and shared his enthusiasm with Donald Schwartz. Donald Schwartz traveled with a small group of friends through Egypt on four occasions in the 1970's and 1980's (with Dr. Larr on three trips). They marveled at the ancient civilization and mourned the loss of much of the art there. Mr. Schwartz created several Egyptian replicas in plaster of such things as scarabs and a bas-relief wall plaque. In his last decades he also painted seascapes and still life and attempted some with an impressionistic approach, though more as an experiment.


But Donald Schwartz's real passion in life was the painting of thoroughbred racehorses. He felt a connection with each individual and was admired for his ability to convey the horse's personality in his paintings. While in Denver in the early 1960's he discovered the art of Sir Alfred Munnings who inspired him throughout his life. He traveled to England and visited his former home on two occasions, read several biographies, and studied his paintings thoroughly. In developing his realist style he studied the details of equine anatomy. He would often comment on other artists's work noting how they placed a tendon in the wrong location for example. His horse portraits from 1965 to 1969 show a dramatic development in skill and style, as he visited owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders, and of course the many horses themselves at and near Santa Anita and Del Mar racetracks after her returned to California around 1965. The home he settled in at that time was central to the equine racing profession, with owners and professionals residing with their horses throughout Olivenhain/Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe.

His accomplishments as a member of the American Academy of Equine Artists (AAEA) are more numerous than I, Eric, his long time friend, can uncover in writing his biography here today, and I can only hope to point out some of the high points. Most of his work was done by commission, and he traveled as far away as Japan (in the 1980's) to meet and paint the horses. His highest-selling painting was a watercolor of Riboletta for Aaron and Marie Jones. He was commissioned by famous persons such as: Desi Arnez, Dick Van Dyke, Mrs. Paul Getty and William Shatner for numerous paintings. His paintings hang in galleries and racetracks around the country. Here are a few that are notable:

"Lemhi Gold", (~1982) Aaron and Marie Jones
"Tiffany Lass", (~1985) Aaron and Marie Jones
"John Henry", (1985 world's top winning race horse at that time), official retirement painting for owner Sam Rubin
"Juniperus" (horse head sculpture in bronze), 1991 Del Mar National Horse Show, became the Hap Hansen Perpetual trophy
"No Parking Del Mar", Best of Show at the Camden, South Carolina Invitational Art Show (AAEA)
"Tinners Way", (1994-5 million $ winner of Del Mar Pacific Classic), Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, also used on program cover
"Forestry", (~1999) Aaron and Marie Jones
"General Challenge", (1999 million $ winner of Del Mar Pacific Classic), Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

He often taught small groups of friends and individuals how to paint. In 1971, Walter T. Foster asked him to do a book in his art series titled, "Horses' Heads in Oil and Pastels". As a classic text on how to paint horse heads, it has sold over half a million copies world-wide and drawn fan mail from across the globe. He developed and began selling instructional videos on VHS tape and started DVD production in his final years.


He passed away peacefully with friends at age 79 on September 7, 2010. Although in declining health the last few months, he continued painting Queen Zenyatta and working on sketches of wild animals for a book. We will all miss him; he was passionate, remarkably skilled, and a constant advocate for the well-being of people and animals.

Over the years Donald Schwartz relied on web designers including Peter Libby and Barry Knowlton who's fine work contributed to these pages.