The Horse in Art – across 35,000 years

1.0 Art and Sculpture Genre digests

The horse has been a popular subject in artworks throughout human history.

Four early examples were discovered in European caves:


33,000 BCE
This carving in ivory of a horse is dated to the Aurignacian period of the Upper Paleolithic, aka the Late Stone Age – 50,000 -12000 BP. It was discovered in the Vogelherd Cave in the eastern Swabian Jura, in south-western Germany. Other figurines from the period were also present.
Constructed from reindeer antler this perforated baton depicts a low relief of a horse. It was found in the La Madeleine cave in the Dordogne.
18,000 BCE

15,000 BCE
This Magdalenian’ horse carving, came from the reindeer herding period.
The Magdalenian cultures are later cultures of the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic in western Europe. They date from around 17,000 to 12,000 BP. The name derives from the type site of La Madeleine, a rock shelter located in the Vézère valley, commune of Tursac, in France’s Dordogne department. It is on show at the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale, France.
This ‘Robin Hood Cave Horse‘ is the only piece of Paleolithic Art found in Britain that bears a depiction of an animal. There is some dispute as to whether the piece was brought from France, though the Pinhole Cave Man was also found nearby. Discovered in Creswell Crags, Derbyshire it is fabricated in a rib bone.
13,000 BCE
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

 

Ancient Egyptians also included horses in their art:


1,350 BCE
This mural fragment is from the tomb of Nebamun at the Thebes temple complex. It shows Nebamun surveying fields, as he was a member of the elite, a scribe and the Chief of the Measurers of the Granary. The series of fresco paintings depict, presumably idealised, views of his life and activities
Ramses II became ‘the Great’ by being routinely involved in conflict as depicted in these murals.

The first image is a painting from the Beit el-Wali temple, showing him in his war chariot charging towards the Nubian forces. The second is a mural from Thebes showing him battling the Syrians at the siege of Daipur.


1,274-1,269 BCE
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

Other ancient Middle Eastern cultures celebrated the horse:


1,300-1,230 BCE
This Mycenean krater (mixing vessels used for the dilution of wine with water) has a popular horse-drawn chariot motif.
This Eurasian/Celtic bronze ceremonial axe is from the Hallstatt culture and features a horse. It was found in a high-status grave.
800-700 BCE


721-705 BCE
These relief panels from the palace of Assyrian king Sargon II were discovered at Dur-Sharrukin, today’s Khorsabad, Iraq. It is on show at the Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Darius the Great, was the third Persian ‘King of Kings’ of the Achaemenids, reigning from 522-486 BCE. This is one of a series of friezes showing delegations arriving, with gifts, at the Apadana audience hall of Persepolis. In this one Lydians and Armenians bring tributes of a stallion and their wines. The Greek historian Strabo suggests that Darius received in total, some 20,000 colts from the Armenians.
5th c BCE

5th c BCE
Achaemenids had little direct experience of stone architecture, instead they imported artists and craftsmen from their empire, developing a hybrid style from Elam, Egypt, Lydia and Mesopotamia. As a result Persepolis had distinctive columns and ornate capitals for its columns, in this case horses.
Scythians played an important part in the Silk Road trade network that connected Greece, Persia, India and China. These gold plaques depict the resurrection of a dead hero. They are on show at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.
5th c BCE

4th c BCE
This Scythian golden comb is suggested as being made by Greeks based upon Scythian taste. It was found at Solokha, Ukraine and is dated to the early 4th c BCE. It is on show at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

Greek civilization continued with the theme:

In the Greek Archaic Period, red-figure pottery had two periods: 530-480 BCE and 480-323 BCE. Early vases depicted scenes from daily life, or heroic and Dionysiac (sensual/emotional) scenes. The figures were decorative rather than naturalistic.
530-480 BCE


440s BCE
From the Classical Greek period, these controversial Parthenon Marbles aka the Metopes of the Parthenon are held at the British Museum, based upon Lord Elgin acquiring Turkish permission to acquire them and ship them to the UK. They consist of 92 marble plaques from the persityle on the Athens Acropolis, created by Phidias. The themes are battles with the Amazons, the Fall of Troy, fighting the Giants, Centaurs fighting Lapiths…
A montage of Macedonian soldiers, found in two small tombs discovered at Agios (or Hagios) Athanassios, a town in NE Greece.
4th c BCE


c100 BCE
This mosaic of Alexander the Great in battle, was created for the owner of the House of the Faun in Pompeii. It is on show at the National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
The lower image is a detail showing Alexander Alexander as he fights with Darius III.
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

The Indian sub-continent used horses in its art:

The Edicts of Ashoka the Great were set in stone and have been found throughout the subcontinent. This is a relief of Ashoka on his chariot visiting the Nagas (half-human, half-serpent deities) of Ramagrama, he planned to take relics of the Buddha, but in this he failed. The relief is at Stupa 1, Sanchi (46 km from Bhopal).
238 BCE

350 CE
This relief is said to be a depiction of the story of the Trojan horse in the art of Gandhāra, an ancient region (today’s NW Pakistan and NE Afghanistan) that was centred on at the confluence of the Kabul and Swat rivers. It is on show at the British Museum, but there is some contention about both the subject and the source.
The god Vishnu has many avatars on earth, one of these is Krishna, the warrior-king who deal with demonic threats. This 5th c terracotta relief depicts a youthful Krishna killing the demon Keshi, in the guise of a horse. Sources make the connection of this tale to the Greek legends of Hercules. It is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA
5th c CE

1575
This Mughal illustration is from the Hamzanama, which narrates the legendary exploits of Amir Hamza, or Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib, an uncle of Muhammad. Most of the stories are decribed as extremely fanciful.
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

China also regularly depicted horses in its artworks:

The Terracotta Army was discovered arranged in battle formations. There are some 7,000 life-size terracotta figures of warriors and horses.

The top image shows terracotta horses and a chariot that is on show in the Qin Museum. Some 520 horses and130 chariots have been found to-date.

The lower image shows men with cavalry horses. The horses are approximately life-size, they have a saddle but no stirrups, as these were not in use at this period. 150 cavalry horses have been found to date.


210 BCE

25-220 CE
This Han dynasty bronze horse has become an iconic emblem of China. Racing through the skies, it treads on a swallow (at base of statue) that looks up in amazement. Unlike Pegasus, the wingless Han steed is meant to be understood metaphorically, an ideal horse that can gallop so fast that it seems to outrun the wind. It is on show at the Gansu Provincial Museum.
Mounted warrior of the Northern Wei Dynasty from the collections of the Musée Cernuschi, Paris France.
386-534 CE


550–577 CE
Northern Qi Tomb Murals discovered in Jiuyuangang, Xinzhou. It depicts a rural hunting scene on horseback.
Standing Horse is a glazed pottery tomb figure. Numerous tomb figurines and other artefacts were designed specifically to be buried with the deceased in burial mounds. This large figurine features the use of sancai, a glazing technique popular during the Tang dynasty.
618-907 CE

618-907 CE
A Tang dynasty carved marble horse head.
This relief of horse, named ‘Saluzi’ or Autumn Dew, is one of six reliefs of chargers commissioned by the Emperor Taizong for the Zhaoling Mausoleum. Taizong was the second Tang emperor reigning from 626 until his death in 649. Zhaoling was built into Jiuzong Mountain 80 kms out of Xi’an city centre.
c649 CE

750 CE
Tang ceramic tomb figure of a female polo player.
This amber-brown glazed pottery tomb figure of a horse is from the Tang Dynasty. It is on display at the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem.
8th c CE

848 CE
Mural commemorating victory of General Zhang Yichao over the Tibetans in 848. The mural is in Mogao cave 156.
An illustration of Nurhaci’s biography depicting the battle of Sarhu (1619) depicting the Manchu cavalry charging Ming infantry in the battle.
1635

1755
The sixth of twelve scrolls, depicting the 1751 Emperor’s inspection tour of southern China. This scroll produced by Xu Yang shows the Emperor entering the city of Suzhou and taking control of the Grand Canal.
A scene from the Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution. This was a massive rebellion or civil war that was waged in China from 1850 to 1864, though the last rebel army was not wiped out until 1871.
1850
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

The Romans also memorialised horses in their art (as did their enemies, the Sassanians):


122 BCE
The 2nd c BCE Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus is a series of four sculpted marble plaques which probably decorated a base which supported cult statues in the cella of a Temple of Neptune located in Rome on the Field of Mars. It is the second oldest Roman bas-relief currently known. Domitius Ahenobarbus, a general, pledged to build a temple to the god of the sea after a naval victory, this was probably one off Samos in 129-128 BCE. One portion of the alter is on display at the Louvre, another at the Glyptothek in Munich – and a copy of this is at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
The 424 cm high equestrian statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius is on show at the Capotiline Museum. He is over life-size and though he is astride a horse there are similarities to standing statues of Augustus. It survived because it was mis-identified as Constantine. An equestrian statue of Constantine had stood beside the Arch of Septimus Severus (see next).
163



203
The Arch of Septimius Severus is at the NW end of the Roman Forum. Winged Victories are carved in relief in the spandrels. A staircase in the south pier leads to the top of the monument, where statues were sited of the emperor and his two sons in a quadriga (a four-horse chariot), while accompanied by soldiers. The lower image shows a relief from the arch that depicts a chariot procession of Septimius Severus.
A relief at Naqsh-e Rustam (the Achaemenid necropolis) of Ardashir I receiving the ring of power from Ahura Mazda.
Ahura Mazda, literally Lord of Wisdom, is the creator deity and highest deity of Zoroastrianism.

224

240
A Sassanian relief at Naqsh-e Rustam depicting the Triumph of Shapur I over the Roman Emperor Valerian, and of emperor Philip the Arab. At the Battle of Edessa he captured the Roman emperor Valerian, the first time a Roman emperor became a prisoner-of-war. Valerian had to bear the insults of his captors, for example, being used as a human footstool by Shapur to mount his horse.
A marble sarcophagus displaying the myth of Selene and Endymion. The image shows an undercut relief of a bucolic scene. It is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA.

An inscription on the lid makes clear that this sarcophagus was for a woman named Arria, and commissioned by her daughter.

250

260
A Sassanian rock relief from the Naqsh-e Rustam necropolis. It depicts the investiture of Ardashir I.
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome dedicated to the emperor Constantine the Great. The arch was commissioned by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 CE.
The lower image is a relief from horizontal frieze of the arch showing the obsidio (siege) of Verona – and featuring a horse.



315

350
Sassanian gilded silver horse head, found in Kerman, Iran and dated to the 4th c.
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

Down the years, many other parts of the world depicted horses:

This horse and rider is from the Nok culture of Africa, an early Iron Age population that lived in today’s northern Nigeria from 1,500 BCE – 500 CE. They are named for the Ham village of Nok in Kaduna State of Nigeria, where their hollow terracotta sculptures were first discovered in 1928.
1st-6th c CE

750
Classical Javanese art and architecture saw temples dot its landscape. The most notable of the temples were Kalasan, Sewu, Borobudur and Prambanan, all quite close to present-day city of Yogyakarta. This relief is from Borobudur, showing Queen Maya in a horse carriage hurrying back to Lumbini to give birth to Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
The Khmer Empire settled across today’s countries of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam; though its highest degree of progress was in Cambodia. This is from a Ramayana mural at Phnom Penh’s Silver Pagoda.
1866
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

 

The European Middle Ages’ art movements included horses:


c870
This Carolingian statuette is said to be of Charlemagne or Charles the Bald as a horse-riding figure. It indicates the Carolingian emperors’ were inspired by equestrian statues from antiquity, such as that of Marcus Aurelius in Rome (above).

The emperor in holding a globe and a sword (missing), asserted his authority as a conqueror. This was found in the treasury of Metz Cathedral and is now on show at the Louvre
Viking art went through six main phases
Oseberg c775 – 875;
Borre c850 – 975;
Jellinge c900 -975;
Mammen c960 -1025;
Ringerike c990 -1050;
Urnes c1050 -1125.

This image shows the Urnes style, which takes its name from the carved wooden doors of the Urnes Stave church, Norway c1132.
The style is a refinement of the Ringerike style and uses an interplay of curving lines for its effect. The part of this carving tinted blue is clearly a horse.

c1050-1125

1070
The term Opus anglicanum, implies that Anglo-Saxons were skilled in embroidery and tapestry. But there are only a few extant examples. Of course, at the end of this period, the 68m long Bayeux Tapestry is renowned. This image shows Bishop Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, rallying Duke William’s troops during the Battle of Hastings.
Another Bayeux Tapestry extract, this showing the death of King Harold. It was not produced in Bayeux, but Canterbury around 1070. and commissioned by William’s half-bother the Bishop of Odo, who appears in several scenes; it is therefore a Norman account.
1070

1150
The St Albans Psalter is an English illuminated manuscript, one of several psalters known to have been created at or for St Albans Abbey in the 12th century.
It is considered to be a most important example of English Romanesque book production. It has over forty full-page miniatures, and contains a number of innovations that would endure throughout the Middle Ages. The image here is of the three Magi – on horses, not camels.
The Chora Church in Istanbul had been ransacked when the Crusaders invaded Constantinople. In 1315, Andronikos II appointed a wealthy Orthodox Byzantine aristocrat, Metochites, to restore the church.
Metochites commissioned mosaics and murals as part of his restoration, Sadly these were later covered up by the Ottomans when it became a mosque in 1500. But the church became the Karyiye museum in 1945 and they were again revealed. The Byzantine mosaic shown here is the Holy family’s journey to Bethlehem, Mary on a horse, not a donkey.

1320
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

 

Further East horses were still a feature, largely due to the Mongol tactical use of horses:


1238 (depicted)
This image is a miniature from a 16th-century chronicle of the Mongol invasion of Russia.
It shows the sack of Suzdal by Batu Khan.
Mongols pursuing King Béla IV of Hungary and Croatia after his catastrophic defeat in the Battle of Mohi on 11 April 1241.
1241

1325
Mongol with Horse and Camel, by an unidentified artist, is dated to 1271-1368 (Yuan). It is ink and colour on silk and is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA.
A 14th c painting of mounted warriors pursuing enemies. It is an illustration of Rashid-ad-Din’s Gami’ at-tawarih. It is water colour on paper and is on show at Staatsbibliothek Berlin.
1325

1362 (2012)
The Battle of Blue Waters was fought at some time in autumn 1362 or 1363 on the banks of the Synyukha River, the left tributary of the Southern Bug in the Ukraine. It was between the armies of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Mongol Golden Horde. The Lithuanians won a decisive victory and this finalised their conquest of the Principality of Kiev.
However, this is a modern painting by Ukranian Artur Orlonov in 2012.
Painting depicting the Mongol Hulagu Khan’s army besieging the walls of Baghdad for 13 days in 1258. The city fell and was sacked, the House of Wisdom library was destroyed. The Mongols executed Al-Musta’sim (the 37th and last Abbasid caliph) and massacred many residents of the city. The siege is considered to mark the end of the Islamic Golden Age, during which the caliphs had extended their territory to extend from the Iberian Peninsula to Sindh (Pakistan).
It is on show at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

1430

1876
Jozef Brandt was a Realist painter of military campaigns and eastern European trail scenes in which horses served as a recurring motif.
In search of exotic subjects he frequently travelled eastward, visiting Ukraine and the European parts of Turkey. In On Reconnaissance, Brandt shows a procession of Tartar horseman proceeding across a grassy plain dotted with colorful wildflowers.
The figure on a dapple horse in the central foreground, startled by something in the rushes at the right, halts, brandishes his rifle, and raises his hand to caution his companion.
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

 

The Renaissance used horses extensively:

The Battle of San Romano is a set of three paintings by the Florentine painter Uccello depicting events that took place at the 1432 Battle of San Romano, between troops of the Republic of Florence and the Republic of Siena. The first painting shows the condottiero Niccolò Mauruzi da Tolentino at the battle; a mercenray captain in charge of Milanese troops. The second shows Mauruzi da Tolentino unseating the opposing condottiero Bernardino Ubaldini della Carda, who led the Sienese force. The third painting shows the counterattack of another condottiero Michelotto da Cotignola, cousin to the Sforzas. His action was decisive in gaining victory for the Florentines.




1435-1438

1444-1453
The Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata is a sculpture by Donatello, today it is located in the Piazza del Santo in Padua, Italy. It portrays the Renaissance condottiero Erasmo da Narni, known as ‘Gattamelata, who served mostly under the Republic of Venice, which ruled Padua at the time.
Paolo di Dono was celebrated in his lifetime as a master of perspective, and of animals and landscape; his nickname, Uccello (‘Bird’), alludes to his depictions of the natural world.

As a nocturnal landscape and as a brilliantly structured composition, The Hunt in the Forest is a highly original painting. In its size and shape it is a spalliera painting, to be viewed at shoulder height.

c1470

1470
Gothicizing tendencies in Paolo Uccello’s art are nowhere more apparent than in this painting. It shows a scene from the famous story of St George and the Dragon. On the right, George is spearing the beast, and on the left, the princess is using her belt as a leash to take the dragon up to the town.
The eye in the storm gathering on the right of Saint George is lined up with his spear showing there has been divine intervention.
This is one of fifteen woodcuts in Dürer’s The Apocalypse series. It graphically present the horsemen, Death, Famine, War (or Conquest), and Plague (or Pestilence), as described in Revelation 6:v1-8. Peculiar to use this mono medium when three of the horses are described by colour.
1498

1529
Duke William IV of Bavaria commissioned The Battle of Alexander at Issus in 1528 as part of a set of historical pieces that was to hang in his Munich residence.

Modern commentators suggest that the painting, through its abundant use of anachronism, was intended to liken Alexander’s heroic victory at Issus to the contemporary European conflict with the Ottoman Empire. In particular, the defeat of Suleiman the Magnificent at the siege of Vienna may have been the inspiration for Altdorfer.
Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg commemorates Charles’ victory over the Schmalkaldic League at Mühlberg on 24 April 1547.
It was created between April and September 1548 while Titian was at the imperial court of Augsburg.

1547

Mannerism and the Baroque periods used horses:


1565-1587
Tintoretto’s Crucifixion, in the Sala dell’Albergo of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco Venice, presents a panorama of Golgotha populated by a crowd of soldiers, executioners, horsemen, and apostles.
According to St Matthew’s Gospel, after hearing from the wise men of the birth of Jesus, King Herod ordered that all children in Bethlehem under the age of two be murdered. Bruegel set the story for his Massacre of the Innocents as a contemporary Flemish atrocity so that the soldiers wear the distinctive clothing of the Spanish army and their German mercenaries.
1565-1567

1597-1599
Commissioned for the Chapel of San José in Toledo by Martín Ramírez, a namesake of the saint and donor of the chapel, Saint Martin and the Beggar was part of one of El Greco’s most successful ensembles. The saint, who lived during the reign of Constantine the Great, was a member of the imperial cavalry stationed near Amiens, in Gaul. Coming upon a shivering beggar near the city gates on a cold winter day, the young soldier divided his cloak with his sword and shared it with him.
The conversion of Paul from persecutor to apostle is a well-known biblical story. According to the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus was a zealous Pharisee, who intensely persecuted the followers of Jesus, even participating in the stoning of Stephen. He was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest the Christians of the city.

Conversion of St Paul on the way to Damascus depicts the moment recounted in the Acts of the Apostles. The scene is lit by a strong light but the three figures are engulfed by an almost impenetrable darkness.except Caravaggio has Saul falling off a horse (which is not mentioned in the story) on the road to Damascus, seeing a blinding light and hearing the voice of Jesus. For Saul this is a moment of intense religious ecstasy.

1601

1615
 Few paintings ooze the style of the Baroque movement more than Battle of the Amazons by Peter Paul Rubens which arrived just as the artist was starting to peak, as displayed in the confidence of this complex composition. The Battle of the Amazons covers the war between the Athenians of Theseus and the opposing warriors of Telestris. Herodotus (4.110) makes a fleeting mention of this incident.
Rubens’ life-size painting, Rape of the Daughters of Leuccipus, illustrates the mythical tale recounted by the poets Theocritus and Ovid , concerning the abduction of the daughters of King Leucippus of Argos, by the twin brothers Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces), together known as the Dioscuri.
1618

1635
Charles I at the Hunt depicts Charles in civilian clothing and standing next to a horse as if resting on a hunt, in a manner described by the Louvre as a ‘subtle compromise between gentlemanly nonchalance and regal assurance’.
Guillaume Coustou studied at the French Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and also in Rome. He returned to France where his exceptional talents were employed by King Louis XIV. Coustou is best known for his two pieces of marble sculpture, each called Horse restrained by a Groom, known jointly as the Marly Horses. Originally created for the royal chateau at Marly, then relocated to the Place de la Concorde before settling finally at the Louvre.
1739
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

Romanticism and Neoclassicism depicted horses:


1762

1768-1769
Considered one of the most important British paintings of the eighteenth century, Whistlejacket, is probably the most well-known portrait of a horse, widely acknowledged to be George Stubb’s masterpiece. The Arabian chestnut stallion won a famous victory at York in 1759, but by 1762 had been retired from racing. It is on show at the National Gallery, London.

But Stubbs also painted a whole series featuring a Horse attacked by a Lion. This is at the Yale Center for British Art.
Carle Vernet began this enormous painting, The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus, with its more than one hundred figures and dozen horses in 1787, and he presented it as his reception piece to the Académie Royale in 1789. Exhibited at the Salons of 1789 and 1791, the painting’s ambition and advanced classicism proved a critical success. It is today on show at Metropolitan Museum of Art NY USA
1789

1798-1799
Jacques-Louis David began planning this while he was imprisoned at Luxembourg Palace in 1795. France was at war with other European nations after a period of civil conflict culminating in the Reign of Terror and the Thermidorian Reaction, during which David had been imprisoned as a supporter of Robespierre.

The Intervention of the Sabine Women, depicts them separating the Romans and Sabines, as a ‘sequel’ to Poussin’s The Rape (or Abduction) of the Sabine Women.
Napoleon Crossing the Alps was completed in four months, from October 1800 to January 1801, it signals the dawning of a new century. General Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799 staged an uprising against the revolutionary government (a coup d’état), installed himself as First Consul, and effectively become the most powerful man in France.
In May 1800 he led his troops across the Alps in a military campaign against the Austrians which ended in their defeat in June at the Battle of Marengo.

1801

c1812
The painting was Théodore Géricault’s first exhibited work. It represents French romanticism and has a motif similar to Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps, but non-classical characteristics of the picture include its dramatic diagonal arrangement and vigorous paint handling.
In The Charging Chasseur, the horse appears to be rearing away from an unseen attacker.
Francisco Goya treated the theme of bullfighting in a number of paintings. During the mid-nineteenth century there was a brisk business in copies of Goya’s popular bullfight compositions, and the use here of certain motifs that appear in Goya’s other bullfight scenes has led some authorities to view our painting as a pastiche by another hand. In Bullfight in a Divided Ring the richness of the composition however, and the brilliant handling of the foreground crowd are worthy of Goya himself.
1814
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

The Realist movement took the theme forward:


1852-5
In arriving at the final scheme, Rosa Bonheur drew inspiration from George Stubbs, Théodore Gericault, Eugène Delacroix, and ancient Greek sculpture: she referred to The Horse Fair as her own ‘Parthenon frieze’.
The theme of horse racing is recurrent in Edgar Degas’s work, drawing its inspiration from the lifestyle of his contemporaries. The Parade allowed him to tackle the traditional subject matter of the horse rider transposed into modernity.
1866-1868

1876
The Hague School painters were drawn to the harsh existence of poor fishermen, like those living in nearby Scheveningen. However, in Morning Ride on the Beach, Anton Mauve depicted the other side of that fishing village: the sunny world of the well-to-do bourgeoisie. Three riders descend to the beach, where the bathing cabins stand ready for swimmers.
Édouard Manet depicts La rue Mosnier aux Paveurs, now the Rue de Berne, which was overlooked by Manet’s studio at 4 Rue de Saint-Pétersbourg. It was painted from an upstairs window.
1878

1881
In 1872, Leland Stanford, former governor of California and president of the Central Pacific Railroad, asked Eadweard Muybridge to photograph a horse galloping at full speed.
This simple request, intended to confirm Stanford’s theory that all of the horse’s feet were off the ground simultaneously at some point during its stride, launched Muybridge on a lifelong pursuit to record animals in motion. He developed an ingenious method of stop-action photography: a battery of twenty-four cameras triggered either at timed intervals or as the horse’s legs tripped a wire suspended above the ground. The result was a sequence of discrete images representing postures previously invisible to the human eye. This The Attitudes of Animals in Motion confirms Stanford’s theory.
The Capitulation of Granada shows Muhammad XII, also known as Boabidil, the last Emir of Granada (left), handing over the city’s keys to the Catholic monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon (right). The painting was commissioned by the Spanish Senate in 1879 and was finished by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz in 1882.
1882
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

From 1890-1930 horses were used by various movements:


1890
Painted when Picasso was just eight years old, Il Picador, is considered one of his first works. It was inspired by his first attendance at a bullfight.
Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning was inspired by Camille Pissarro surveying the view from his lodgings at the Grand Hôtel de Russie in early 1897. After spending six years in rural Éragny, he marvelled that he could ‘see down the whole length of the boulevards with almost a bird’s-eye view of carriages, omnibuses, people, between big trees, big houses that have to be set straight’.
1897

1902
In his record book, Robert Henri described Snow in New York as, ‘N.Y. down E. on 55th St. from 6 Ave. Brown houses at 5 Ave. storm effect. snow. wagon to right.’ It presents a common side street rather than a major avenue; there is nothing narrative, anecdotal, or prettified about the image; the straightforward, one-point perspective composition is devoid of trivial details.
Walter Crane was a British artist and book illustrator. He is considered to be the most influential, and among the most prolific, children’s book creators of his generation. Neptune’s Horses is an iconic image depicting the power of the sea. The god Neptune charges forward with his horses, who boldly rise from the waves.
1910

1912
Little Blue Horse is an abstract painting, one of Franz Marc’s ‘The New Painting’ era. At this time in his career the artist was striving to enter and portray the spirit of the horse.
This has been done in a non-western way and marked a dramatic change in the way that art was being created and thought about in Germany at that time.
Agrarian Leader Zapata depicts Emiliano Zapata, the foremost leader of the peasant revolution in the Mexican state of Morelos and among the leading figures in the Mexican Revolution. He was also the inspiration of the agrarian movement known as Zapatismo. This fresco, which shows Zapata with the bridle of a majestic white horse in his hand and standing above the dead body of a land owner, was produced as part of eight portable frescoes for Diego Rivera’s solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1931.
1931

1931
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere depicts the legendary story of the American patriot Paul Revere, as learned from an 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. From a bird’s-eye view, the Grant Wood painting shows Revere on horseback racing through a colonial town square in Massachusetts.
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

Modern movements maintained interest in the horse:

Picasso painted Guernica at his home in Paris in response to the 26 April 1937, bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in northern Spain which was bombed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the request of the Spanish Nationalists.
1937

1937-8
Self-Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse) shows Leonora Carrington white jodhpurs and a wild mane of hair, perched on the edge of a chair in this curious, dreamlike scene. Her hand is outstretched toward the prancing hyena and her back to the tailless rocking horse flying behind her. The daughter of an English industrialist, Carrington spent her childhood on a country estate surrounded by animals and reading fairy tales and legends.
Zebra is considered by many to be the first Op Art painting. Victor Vasarely has placed these two equines intertwined on a black background. There is no outline, just the alternating black and white stripes. It therefore leaves the observer considering what is real and what abstract.
1937

1943
As the Nazis became a greater threat, Marc Chagall moved to New York City with his family, driving him further away from the village existence he knew and loved. Thoughts of flight and exile re-appear in the painting War. A wretched and drastically overloaded cart is slowly putting the burning city behind it. A man is plodding along behind the cart, a sack over his shoulder, saving his worldly goods from the flames. Most of the people here can only just save their lives, though, and cling to each other in confused despair. The people and animals that have remained in the city are helplessly at the mercy of the all-consuming inferno.
Birth of the Muses: this piece grew out of a series of small sketches from 1944 treating the theme of Pegasus. According to myth, this winged horse alighted on Mount Olympus. Where its four hooves touched the ground, four springs of water emerged in which the muses were born. In its allusion to the birth of inspiration. In Jacques Lipchitz’s first maquette, Pegasus was shown frontally, the artist turned him in profile and developed the sculpture in a high relief.
1944-1950

1955
Don Quixote is a 1955 sketch by Pablo Picasso of the Spanish literary hero and his sidekick, Sancho Panza. It was featured on the August 18-24 issue of the French weekly journal Les Lettres Francaises in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the first part of Cervantes’s Don Quixote.
Public Sculpture aka ‘The Chicago Picasso’ is an untitled monumental sculpture by Pablo Picasso in Daley Plaza in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubist sculpture was the first such major public artwork in Downtown Chicago, and has become a well-known landmark.
1967

2013
The Kelpies are mythical shape-shifting water creatures with immense power. Alex Scott created these 30m tall steel statues in 2013 for the Helix Parkland, next to a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal, near Falkirk, Scotland. The Kelpies are a monument to horse-powered heritage across Scotland.
[Note: Text and image references are provided via the links.]

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