Most of the famous horse paintings have some things in common: royal picturesque, battlefields, symbols of speed, power, and authority, and, of course, horses. The subject of a horse is considered the most challenging among painters. To draw the multiple textures of its body, its intricate hues, and its well-structured configuration is nothing short of grueling.
From the equestrian portraiture of the 18th century to the old paintings of the 19th century, horses have found their place in every great artist’s canvas. The timidness and eminence exuded by the horses, coupled with their loyalty to a man in warfares, have been the prime reasons for the popularity of horse paintings.
‘The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur, ‘The Red Prince Mare’ by Sir Alfred Munnings, ‘A Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge, and ‘Horses’ by Francis Picabia are some of the most famous horse paintings of art history. Let us look at some of the more prestigious artworks that have horses in their full glory:
Also known as ‘Race Horses in front of the Tribunes,’ ‘The Parade’ by French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas is one of the best masterpieces in horse paintings. After visiting Normandy, a horse breeding destination, Degas found himself obsessed with the subject of horses. ‘The Parade’ sheds light on the popularity of racecourses in the second half of the nineteenth century, especially among the British aristocrats.
The famous horse painting depicts a group of horse racers mounted on their horses, about to start the race. The scene may be commonplace, but the comprehensive depiction of light, shadows, and lines gives the painting a unique essence. Degas focused more on the silhouette of the riders than the race itself.
Dated 1866-1868, this great work of art is a testament to the urban life of the late 1900s. In addition, it also characterizes Degas’s ingenious technique to represent both: the details of near-up dissection and distant standpoint.
French Romantic artist Theodore Gericault excelled in lithographs, producing very few paintings in his life span. Known mainly for his controversial artwork, ‘The Raft of the Medusa,’ Gericault also had a keen love for animals, particularly horses. Housed in the Louvre, Paris in 1866, ‘The Epsom Derby of 1821’ illustrates several men mounted on galloping horses engaged in a race.
Adam Elmore, a horse dealer, commissioned Gericault to draw a picture of the practice of horse racing. The dark sky painted with a mix of blue and purple stands in contrast to the green fields atop which four racers are directing four horses, all of which are of different shades.
Often bestowed with the title ‘The Father of Abstract Painting,’ Wassily Kandinsky created ‘The Lyrical’
Kandinsky was also interested in using music for his artworks and even gave many of his paintings musical titles. ‘The Lyrical’ may seem a clutter of random shape and colors, but when watched closely, the form of a horse and rider does come into view unmistakably.
Suffering from Synesthesia, Kandinsky could hear colors as sounds and see sounds as colors. ‘The Lyrical,’ thus, not only stands as a great abstract and figurative art of the twentieth century but also Kandinsky’s mastery over his illness.
Housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, ‘Horse Frightened by Lightning’ is one of the most celebrated works of the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. Unlike other horse paintings, this particular artwork has a horse as its “subject matter.” The white and grey Horse with the flying mane looks distressed due to the thunderstorm seemingly taking place in the background.
Delacroix took great pride in keeping his artworks to himself, not selling or revealing them to the outside world. Only after his death did the world have the privilege of appreciating his masterpieces. The alluring and detailed brushstrokes and the impressionism in the startled expression of the Horse greatly influenced the inception of the Impressionist movement.
The most renowned horse paintings, ‘Whistlejacket,’ uniquely portrays a horse. The Marquess of Rockingham’s racehorse stands alone, without any rider, saddle, or background. Stubbs painted this masterpiece in 1762, further affirming his talent of painting in an incredulously realistic style.
It’s not only the lack of a background that made this painting famous, but it was the carefully arranged details of the Horse that caught people’s eye. Its shining eyes, flaring nostrils, white bands on his lower right leg, and the lustrous hair and tail are what gave this horse spirit and soul. Even the shades of brown seem to bring out every vein and spot on the beautiful racehorse.
The history of equine art is full of famous artists trying their hand at horse paintings. Some of the most renowned horse paintings have a home at the 1st Art Gallery, which is also the world’s largest supplier of Made-to-Order Oil Paintings. So while you appreciate the royalty and vigor of racehorses, make sure you have them running in your living room as well.