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The horse in painting through history

We commented in our article on “the horse in universal literature” that the first artistic expression where the horse had been reflected was in painting. In the cave paintings, man recorded his closeness to the horse. That is why today we will talk about the horse in the painting and make a panning of its main representatives.

The horse has accompanied man almost since the beginning of civilization. Since the first human manifestations and archaeological records the horse is located in them. Thus in the Caves of Ekain, one of the oldest places and with the highest concentration of cave paintings the horse is present.

Even in history there have been horse painters

That is why we will take a brief tour of the history of humanity and the presence of the horse in painting. Let’s just add start.

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The horse in the Ekain caves

In the caves of Ekain we find the most ancient cave paintings depicting the horse. They are located in the Basque country and date back to 10,000A.C. It is one of the places with the highest concentration of cave paintings in the world and there we find that the horse occupies 58% of them.

Ekain is the beginning of horse painting that will accompany humanity throughout its development. Definitely an interesting story in which we will delve into another moment.

Paintings of horses in the Cave of Ekain
Paintings of horses in the Cave of Ekain

The horse in Egyptian painting and hieroglyphics

The record of the written word is given in the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations. It is in the latter that there are abundant records that relate horses to their lifestyle. This occurs during the phase of the new empire, when the Hicsos take power in Egypt and introduce the horse as a war technology.

It is at this time that the first records of the horse are located. It is at this time that the word representing the horse appears in the written system of hieroglyphics. The word horse in hieroglyphics also means “noble” and this gives us to understand the relationship that the Egyptians had with the horses.

At that time we found carved and painted murals depicting horses. Particularly important are those related to the Battle of Kadesh. After Ramses II won this battle thanks to his fabulous horses “Victory in Thebes” and “Mut is satisfied”, he commanded that both horses be represented in all religious temples.

The horse in the painting found its golden age and its role in society.

Representation of the Battle of Kadesh – The Horse in Painting

The role of the horse in painting in Ancient China

By the 8th century there were already several civilizations that were greatly developed. This is the case with the Chinese civilization that was developing the Tang Dynasty at the time.

It was at that time that a prominent Chinese painter found great recognition for his horse paintings. The horse in Han Gan’s painting had great realism but beyond that it was said that in his paintings you could not only find the image of the horse but the spirit of it itself.

When we observe Han Gan’s works we find reflected in it a deep connection between the horse and the rider. This connection is difficult to observe in many works and it was she who won her the recognition of the time. They are certainly admirable works.

Horse in Painting of Han Gan
Horse in Painting of Han Gan

Alberto Durero (1471-1528)

This famous German Renaissance artist is renowned for the wide variety of supports he worked on. It also stands out for realism without losing the symbolism of the work. Durero studied art to all kinds of performances through engravings, drawings and paintings.

But one of his most striking works is “The Knight, Death and the Devil” which will be accompanied by a poem. This poem with moralizing intent is intended to make sense of his work. It depicts a knight besathed by the devil and death against the hero’s mission.

In this work there are many symbolic elements, but it is the horse that makes the knight a knight. That’s why the horse has a leading role in this work.

To obtain this masterpiece Durero carried out several studies on the horse among which stand out:

  • Study of a horse (1495) color version.
  • Knight mounted (1512). Black and white adding details to point to a posture more similar to the final result of the engraving.

No doubt Durero was an inspired horse in painting.

The knight, the death and the devil

George Stubbs (1724-1806)

This British painter stood out for printing great realism to his horses in the paintings. Stubbs dedicated almost all his artistic work to this wonderful animal.

On 25 August 1724 of our Lord Jesus Christ, George Stubbs was born in Liverpool.

George began his training with Hamlet Winstanley but soon after resigned from his apprenticeship. Stubbs’ resignation was because the technique taught by Winstanley was based on copying other works rather than direct observation and originality.

George Stubbs’ great curiosity took him beyond simple painting but this was really his passion. To achieve the ideal representation in his paintings to which it was necessary.

He began with self-taught learning and worked to produce portraits in the north of England. Given the limitations of his technique he decided to study anatomy.

From 1745 to 51 he studied human anatomy. Stubbs’ anatomy studies were conducted at York County Hospital. It was at that time that he performed spectacular works of human anatomy, among which are the illustrations for a book of gynecology of the time.

He then went on to rent a farm to study horse anatomy and for 18 months devoted himself to studying and dissecting horses. As a result George Stubbs published the book “The Anatomy of the Horse” in 1766. The drawings in the book are just the beginning of his career.

Thanks to all this his paintings are not only beautiful but anatomically perfect. Among his most renowned works is “Whistlejacket” which we can find at the National Gallery of London.

Whistlejacket by George Stubbs
Whistlejacket by George Stubbs

The horse in the inspired painting of many people

No doubt the horse has not only inspired books and paintings. He has also inspired some of his most experienced painters to study his anatomy, such as George Stubbs. As a result, veterinary medicine had better models for taking care of horses.

For all this and for the nobility of the horse these are works worth admiring by anyone, especially by horse lovers. No doubt the horse has accompanied and inspired man to reach his full potential.

Gustavo Mirabal and his wife Maria Carolina Mirabal wish to make known the beauty of horses and their role in human history. On Gustavo Mirabal’s social networks you can find a lot of references to the importance of the horse. Surely we cannot forget that without the horse the story would not be the same.

La entrada The horse in painting through history se publicó primero en Gustavo Mirabal Castro.

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