Charlie Wilbourn and his horse Sonata

I was born in New York State and began drawing and painting in kindergarten. Art was my way of staking my claim to being an individual, even at an early age. During my college years, although I majored in European and Asian cultural history, art was my closest companion.

Another constant companion of mine has been the horse. Its exquisite muscle confirmation, its grace, its power, and its long history as a great beast of burden have all served to hold my attention since I sat atop my first horse at the tender age of nine.

After military service in Hawaii and Okinawa as an intelligence analyst, I began to study painting more seriously with Sushil Kumar Mukerjee of Madras India.

When the stark realization hit me that I was unable to make a living as an independent artist, a C.I.A. officer asked me to participate in the deployment of the U.S. Marine division and Air Wing from Camp Pendleton, California to Viet Nam. It was at Camp Pendleton that I was introduced to polo by U.S.M.C. General Hal Oppenheimer - the horse had come back into my life. So with my own horses I began playing Polo at the Will Rogers Polo Club in Pacific Palisades and the Santa Barbara Polo Club. After each match I would steal the time to draw one of my horses at play as a polo pony. By now I had effectively combined my love of painting, polo, and military service.

In 1973, I played polo with the President of India's mounted body guard and illustrated part of the regimental history for the regiment's bicentenary celebration. As part of the D-Day celebrations in Europe in 1994, I presented my polo lithographs to members of the Old Potsdam Polo Club and the commanding general of the German Army in Berlin.

Since 1995, I have lived in the San Bernardino Mountains where I paint daily in my studio and ride my horse Sonata.

Click here to read my article titled - Tent Pegging: A Game of War in the April 1991 issue of Polo Magazine.
Click here to read this letter from the President's Bodyguard of India, dated July 1973.
I was approached by Polo Life Magazine and was featured in a fairly in-depth biographical article that was published in the summer edition, 1991.
"The Ride-Off" - This original painting was produced for Major Mark Gillespie, U.S. Army, and founder of the U.S. Military Polo Team. The painting was displayed at the embassy of the U.K. in Washington D.C. prior to the polo match between the U.S. Military Polo Team and the British Army Polo Team in the spring of 1994.