For over sixty years, Peb has melded his subject matter — the horse and the racing industry, with humorous caricature and satirical commentary. He is rarely seen at tracks without sketch pad in hand, closely observing humans and horses alike to capture personality and character through an expression, trait, or posture.
Peb skillfully posits his observations of the industry within broader cultural contexts. A survey of the artist’s corpus of work reveals his grasp of evolving mainstream trends of the last half of the 20th century.
Peb was born Pierre Camille Lucien Hilaire Jean Bellocq in Bedenac, France, on November 25, 1926. He spent his early years sketching horses and jockeys at the racing center of Maisons-Laffitte outside Paris where his father worked as a jockey and assistant trainer. French magazines and newspapers of the era regularly featured caricatures, and Peb was particularly influenced by the work of caricaturist Georges Goursat, known as Sem. Sem’s ability to reduce his subjects to their most prominent features and his three-letter signature inspired Peb’s approach and eventual signature name.1
Peb worked as a draftsman for a plane factory in Paris during World War II, but the lure of the track brought him back as an aspiring artist. He held his first one-man show of 20 caricatures of notable horsemen at Maisons-Laffitte’s Café de la Station in May of 1944. On the opening day of his exhibition, British Royal Air Force bombers missed their target of a nearby railroad bridge and leveled two racing stables at Maisons-Laffite. Given the vicinity of the impact, Peb recalls the fear and frustrations of his first exhibition as he and his guests were “lying under the tables among the debris of the exhibit.”2
France’s liberation in 1945 opened new markets for Peb's work. His first published work was a caricature of the French jockey Charles Bouillon in France Libre, an underground newspaper that ultimately became Paris-Turf. Peb strove to forge a name for himself creating free-lance illustrations, caricatures, and cartoons for both the France Libre and L’Aurore, a Paris morning paper. He continued to hone his skills during his compulsory service with the French Army from 1946 through 1947. Over the course of his 16-month experience in the military, his art became well-known among his officers, and Peb later noted, “it is paradoxical that I left the French army a rather average corporal, maybe even a mediocre soldier, but as a much-improved artist.”3
After his discharge from the service, Peb began drawing for Paris-Turf, Paris’ new top racing paper. He mounted an exhibition at the Paris-Turf Gallerie in 1950, and a series of his racing posters created for the French Racing Association drew international recognition in the European advertising magazine Gebrauschgraphik in 1951. His growing popularity in Europe was noticed by Maryland’s Laurel Park owner John D. Schapiro who commissioned Peb to create the logo, program cover, and promotional artwork for America’s first international race, the Washington, D.C. International.
When Peb boarded a cargo plane with two Thoroughbreds destined for Laurel Park, he had no intention of staying in the United States long-term. That was before Schapiro introduced Peb to J. Samuel Perlman, publisher of The Morning Telegraph and Daily Racing Form. Peb recalls the initial reaction from Perlman as “standoffish. They didn’t do sketches. They didn’t do cartoons.”4 Reluctantly, Perlman agreed to a three-month trial of one sketch a week, and Peb’s first feature appeared in The Morning Telegraph on April 1, 1955. His features were so well received by readers, he was offered and accepted a full-time contract with the paper.
In addition to his work with The Morning Telegraph and Daily Racing Form, Peb produced weekly editorial cartoons for Sports Illustrated from 1958 to 1961, and political cartoons for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1960 to 1972. His political cartoons were often reprinted in the Sunday edition of The New York Times. As demand for his cartoons grew, Peb relied increasingly upon his efficient pen and ink line drawings, with watercolor or pastels for color.
In addition to his art conceived and generated for newsprint, Peb has been commissioned to create several murals at tracks across the country. His first mural, depicting half a century of racing, was unveiled at Aqueduct in 1961. Forty years later, the New York Racing Association enlisted Peb to create a mural at Belmont Park portraying Thoroughbred racing in the 20th century. Peb’s esteemed murals at Churchill Downs showcase Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys and trainers, and his mural at Del Mar honors the Californians instrumental to the track's establishment. His work is also featured in murals at Oaklawn Park, Arlington Park, Meadowlands, and Roosevelt Raceway.
Bellocq’s many exhibitions include “Peb: The Art of Humor,” which ran between July 2004 and December 2005 at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs to commemorate Peb’s 50 years with the Daily Racing Form. Peb is a three-time winner of the John Hervey Award for Best Cartoon of the Year, the 1967 recipient of the Page One Award from the Newspaper Guild of New York, and a two-time winner of the Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society. Peb won an Eclipse Award for Outstanding Contributions to Racing in 1980, and the French government awarded him the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, the Republic of France’s highest honor to artists, in 1983.
Sixty years after his arrival in Maryland, Peb continues to create, to provoke thought, and to inspire with his witty, wry, and often poignant depictions of the racing world. When asked how he continues to find inspiration in the sport after decades, Peb notes that “there is no logical explanation other than to say I love it. I love the heritage my parents gave me, and I am grateful for the incentive I received from the European masters - the painters and caricaturists who believed in Thoroughbred racing as a legitimate source of beauty and humor.”5
1. The Art of Humor: An Exhibition Presented by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. New York: Daily Racing Form Press, 2004.
2. Forty Years of Peb: The Racing World in Sketch and Caricature. New York: Daily Racing Form Press, 1995.
3. The Art of Humor: An Exhibition Presented by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. New York: Daily Racing Form Press, 2004.
4. “How Maryland Drew a Talented Frenchman.” Bill Heller. Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, February 2004.
5. Forty Years of Peb: The Racing World in Sketch and Caricature. New York: Daily Racing Form Press, 1995.