Art Talk: Horse Power

People are enthralled by the horse.

Always have been. Captivated by this magnificent animal’s power, the prehistoric man in turn captured the horse forever in time on cave walls across Europe. Ever since artists the world over have celebrated both the conformation and the character of this most noble of the domesticated animals in virtually all mediums of aesthetic expression.

At once wild yet willing, dignified yet docile, and beautiful both in concept and in motions, the horse embodies a pantheon of virtues that has made it a natural for artistic representation. Whether immortalized in a painting, a textile, a piece of pottery, or a sculpture, the horse has most often been depicted realistically, even in those representations that verge on the stylized.

For Americans, arguably the most beloved depictions of the horse are found in the art that portrays the Wild West and the High Plains. The sculptures, drawings, and paintings of such artists as Henry Farny, Charles Russell, and Frederic Remington delineate an iconic way of life that would neither have been possible nor have risen to mythic status without the heroic participation of the horse. Although its function as a supremely useful beast has been superseded by modern advances, the horses, eloquently represented in myriad works of art, retain their timeless and singular power to enthrall.—By Kat Schneider, art courtesy of a private collector.