Tall, dark and handsome muse...is a horse

Story highlights

  • From Picasso's Dora Maar to Andy Warhol's Edie Sedgwick, muses inspire great artists
  • But muses aren't always beautiful women -- sometimes they're a horse
  • Champion thoroughbred Frankel inspires poem and painting ahead of last race
  • Arguably world's greatest race horse secured 14th win at Ascot's Champions Stakes

Throughout history, the greatest artists have relied on their muses to inspire, enchant and satisfy them.

Pablo Picasso immortalized mistress Dora Maar in his 1937 painting Weeping Woman, Andy Warhol catapulted model Edie Sedgwick to "It Girl" status in his 1960s avant-garde films, while Leonardo da Vinci made the woman behind his "Mona Lisa" perhaps the most famous muse of all time.

But the elusive figure of the muse doesn't always have to be that of a beautiful woman.

The dark beauty with flowing locks and sinewy limbs depicted in artist Michael Kirkbride's latest painting isn't a luscious lady -- it's a horse.

Not just any horse, but arguably the greatest race horse of all time.

Is Frankel the greatest racehorse ever?
Is Frankel the greatest racehorse ever?

    JUST WATCHED

    Is Frankel the greatest racehorse ever?

MUST WATCH

Is Frankel the greatest racehorse ever? 02:37
PLAY VIDEO
Fabulous Frankel wins again
Fabulous Frankel wins again

    JUST WATCHED

    Fabulous Frankel wins again

MUST WATCH

Fabulous Frankel wins again 02:10
PLAY VIDEO

Read: Jockey who refused to stay in the kitchen

Since demolishing the field in his first major win at the Royal Lodge Stakes in 2010, an air of mystique has followed world champion thoroughbred Frankel.

The superstar colt, who even has its own twitter handle, has not just won all 14 of his races -- he has won them by staggering margins, destroying world-class fields,becoming by a distance the top-rated race horse on the planet.

In his last race, the thoroughbred won the Champion Stakes at Ascot, with a sell-out crowd of 32,000 catching a final glimpse of the now-celebrity horse as as he powered to a dramatic victory.

Read: The death of a race course? Funding cuts take toll

Writer Blaine Ward's personal "Frankel moment" came earlier in the horse's stellar career, an experience which later paved the way for artist Kirkbride to paint his unusual surrealist work.

"I had been watching last year's 2000 Guineas race on TV when Frankel just pounded the other horses into the ground," said Ward.

"He easily won by a good six lengths -- none of the others even came close.

"In my mind's eye I saw Frankel smashing through the screen into my living room; this powerful, beautiful, almost mythical beast."

A 51-year-old former solicitor from Sunderland in north-east England, Blaine was so moved by Frankel's win he wrote a poem about the centaur-like creature bursting into his suburban home in a blaze of glory. It read in part:

"Then a smell of burnt air mixed with horse-flesh

when the telly exploded in his face

as the Frankel centaur burst in

green and pink silk, fluid powerful grace."

It was a special sporting moment and had a profound effect on Ward, who described Frankel's win as akin to watching boxer Muhammad Ali or footballer Lionel Messi in action.

"It was one of those rare times when you get a sense you've just witnessed somebody or something at the very pinnacle of sporting prowess," he said.

"Mere words are never good enough to do it justice."

Read: Ascot vs l'Arc: The glitz and glamor of France's great race

And so Ward enlisted Kirkbride, a lecturer at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London (RADA) to paint the champion horse powering into a suburban living room, knocking Ward and his wife from their chairs and spilling their afternoon gin and tonics to the floor.

"The result is a surreal cocktail of his words and my interpretation in art form," Kirkbride said.

"The modern domestic scene is shattered by the magisterial beast that is Frankel."

Read: Horse appeal: Why gray thoroughbreds are great

Kirkbride painted the work, called "Armchair Ride," in egg tempura; a mixture of colored pigment and egg yolk which dates back to the 1st Century.

The method, which gives a luminous quality, was later superseded by oil painting around the 15th Century.

"It has a kind of stained glass quality to it, like shining a light from behind," said Kirkbride. "The pinks and blues of Frankel's silks are quite strong and I thought they really lent themselves to the medium."

Kirkbride is perhaps best known for his paintings of English football scenes, such as "Chech Mates," which captures the unusual tradition of Chelsea fans throwing celery, or "Bar Kick," which portrays sporting revelry in a pub.

After Saturday though, and Kirkbride will be painting fabulous Frankel smashing not just a TV screen, but the record books all over again.

        Winning Post

      •  Bode Miller (L) and Morgan Miller attend 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

        Ski star Miller plans new 'voodoo'

        He's won six Olympic medals on two legs, but Bode Miller's future will ride on four -- can he replicate his skiing success in the "Sport of Kings"?
      • Flanders Mud

        Ex-jockey molds new career

        As a jockey, Philip Blacker lived for the thrills and spills of horse racing. As a sculptor, his work captures the horror of World War I.
      • Zebra Mombassa in the English countryside, 1980s.

        Queen's 'horseman' tames zebras

        Ever thought zebras couldn't be tamed? Think again. Gary Witheford has a remarkable way with wild animals -- which he proved after a pub boast.
      • The ancient art of horse taming

        The internet went wild for so-called "horse yoga" -- but there was something deeper going on that reconnects humans with the animal world.
      • Runners canter before racing during the Laytown race meeting run on the beach on September 08, 2011 in Laytown, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

        Quick sand: A race like no other

        The going is always soft and the only permanent building is a toilet block. It's the antithesis to the pomp of Royal Ascot ... welcome to Irish beach racing.
      • The Crow Fair and Rodeo takes place in Montana each summer.

        World's largest teepee city

        Each August, over a thousand tents and hundreds of horses converge on Little Big Horn River in Montana for the Crow Fair and Rodeo.
      • Rider Jon Marc goes for victory in the Indian Relay

        America's best sporting secret?

        Little-known outside the tribes of the Rocky Mountains in the American northwest, Indian Relay is a "magical" horse-racing relay.
      • Jockey Gary Stevens looks on after a race prior to the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

        'This is middle-aged crazy'

        Now in his 50s, one of the world's most successful jockeys explains why he gave up acting to return to the sport that nearly crippled him.
      •  An infrared camera was used to create this image.) A horse and exercise rider head to the main track for morning training at Belmont Park on June 4, 2014 in Elmont, New York.

        More rare than a moonwalk

        More people have walked on the moon than have won the fabled Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing. California Chrome is seeking to square that score.