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The Portrayal Of The Horse In The History Of Art

1573 words - 6 pages

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 say that it is joyful in its freedom to run and play as desired despite what goes on around it in the world. In that aspect, it is an appeal to the viewer to join with the horse, no matter what is happening to just kick back your heels and run for the fun of it. The same sort of pleasurable lightheartedness is also evident in Salvador Dali's Temptation of Saint Anthony, though more so in the attitude behind the image rather than in the image's message towards the viewer. Surrealism also strove for self-expression and a dream-like element, as seen in the disproportions and twisting of the horse's legs. Another example of images dealing with the personality of the horse is Deborah Butterfield's Untitled (1992). After the break of Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism into the world of art, artists became much more free and willing to take drastic risks in the form and presentation of their work. Deborah Butterfield is a modern day sculpture artist whose goal is to capture the mystical, spiritual, intangible, playfulness of the horse. By using simplistic rod and sheet forms, she creates the bare essence of the horse, rather than an exact scientific replica. In doing so, she is able to capture the movement and...

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