HISTORY OF HORSES IN ART
The horse has appeared in all forms of art throughout time, but what is its significance. We know that art is very informative of people’s lives, their culture, knowledge, beliefs and superstitions but of all animals it is the horse that is depicted more than any other. From the first cave paintings found in Southern France and Spain approximately 17,000 years ago to the present day, the image of the horse represtents many things to many people throughout the world. The first primitive paintings, which were suprisingly sophisticated, depicted the horse as short and stocky with a heavy head and a short, upright mane with some horses spottedThese were possibly symbolic of shamanism, an ancient ritualistic religion based on magic practised at this time.
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Painters of this period who portrayed the horse included Paolo Uccello, Benozzo Gozzoli, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Andrea Mantegna and Titian.
In the Baroque era the tradition of equine portraiture was established, with artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Diego Velázquez portraying regal subjects atop their mounts. Equine sporting art also became established in this era as the tradition of horse racing emerged under Tudor patronage.
The mid 18th century saw the emergence of Romanticism, French artists Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix were proponents of this movement and both portrayed the horse in many of their works.
It was in the 18th century that George Stubbs dissected and studied their anatomy and painted them in a great detail. These anatomical drawings aided later artists. His style was in contrast to other contemporary artists of his time. His knowledge of anatomy was matched by a genius for design and his emphasis was on nature in contrast to the romantic visions of his predecessor i.e. Antony Van Dyck. Over time the role of the horse has changed.
. Equine sporting art was popular in the 19th century, notable artists of the period being Benjamin Marshall, James Ward, Henry Thomas Alken, James Pollard and John Frederick Herring, Sr.. Horse racing gradually became more established in France and Impressionist painter Edgar Degas painted many early racing scenes. Degas was one of the first horse painters to use photographic references.
Nowadays technology has largely taken precedence over its power and necessity but it is still highly valued as a leisure pursuit, a pet and part of a competitive sport. In modern day art the horse is appreciated for its abstract appeal to the senses rather than for a specific purpose, but even still some large organisations still use the horse in there logos to portray a sense of power