Sam Savitt was an equine artist and author, as well as an illustrator of over 100 books. He was the official illustrator of the United States Equestrian Team, and a founding member of the American Academy of Equine Artists. He created several horse charts that are considered authoritative works and have been used by the Smithsonian Institution
Sam Savitt was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1917. He studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and, by the time he graduated in 1941, he was earning a living illustrating for pulp magazines. Savitt served in the army in Burma during World War II and rose to the rank of first lieutenant. After he was discharged from the army in 1946, he married his sweetheart Bette Orkin. In 1956, the couple, their daughter Vicki and son Roger moved to a beautiful house and property in North Salem, New York.
Savitt enrolled at the Art Student’s League in Manhattan in 1951 and studied sculpture at the New School on 12th Street. While attending classes at night, Savitt continued to free-lance during the day for national adventure and outdoor magazines. He produced full-color covers and interior illustrations of western scenes with plenty of equestrian action.
From the beginning, Savitt’s admiration for horses was fueled by western movies and the books of the legendary cowboy painter and author Will James, which led to his exploration of the Southwest one summer while he was still at Pratt. This experience provided Savitt with the opportunity to use his natural talent as an observer to learn how to ride and train horses of all types and temperament. He became a real “seat of the pants rider,” picking up knowledge wherever he could. Over time, his accumulated expertise as a horseman encompassed both English and western riding disciplines. He mastered different aspects of the horse world including the training of hunters and jumpers. He gained a compassion for horses and a deep understanding of horse psychology. From bucking broncs to thoroughbreds, Savitt’s horsemanship and his unique perceptions as an artist gave him the inspirations he would use in paintings throughout his career.
Savitt also idolized Harold Von Schmidt (1893-1982) who had earned a reputation for his detailed depictions of the American West. Von Schmidt cofounded the Famous Artists School and was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1959. Eventually Savitt studied under Von Schmidt and visited him at his Westport, Connecticut, home. Another great influence on Savitt was famed American illustrator Paul Brown (1893-1958), who specialized in painting horses in sports.