The Portrayal of the Horse in the History of Art

Essay by BeDazzled2525University, Master'sA+, April 2004

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Among the animal kingdom, the horse is without a doubt the most striking of all beasts; in living nature there is no animal so stunning. The image of the horse has been a tradition in the art of many countries for many centuries. The horse has always been there, as transportation, pack animal, brute muscle, military advantage, sport competitor, entertainment, sustenance and loyal companion. Since ancient times, when man first tamed her, the horse has been divinified and worshipped, and with their kindness, strength, beauty, and mystery have inspired people to create works of art. English painter William Haggard put it best when he wrote in his treatise Beauty Analysis, "... of this the last the most excellent example is a horse... This noble creature takes the first place among animals, and this only concords with natural low of nature, marking the most useful of all animals with the most beauty."

The starting point on our journey through the depiction of the horse in art's history begins with Franz Marc's The Leaping Horse, a fantastic example of post WWI expressionism. Expressionism was founded on a response to the recent word war in an attempt to deal with the darkness and horror it brought upon the world, and was used to describe any art that raised subjective feelings above objective observations. The aim was to reflect the artist's state of mind, rather than the reality of external forces, and this artist's state of mind was to find the color and joy in the midst of dreadfulness. The Leaping Horse is full of sharp contrasts of light and shadow, simplified forms, and convulsive rhythms that bring out the spontaneity and vitality of the animal. It perches on its heels as it flippantly casts a gaze towards the viewer, almost as if to...