- Virginia Johnson
The recent movie War Horse, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo, succeeded in showing the strong emotional connections between horses and people. Indeed, this bond was much a part of human history and everyday life up to the middle of the 20th century. Tamsin Pickeral’s book, The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art, is as much about history of this relationship as it is about art.
From Neolithic horse hunters’ vivid and probably shamanic cave paintings in France to portraits of proud aristocrats and royalty with their prized possessions to scenes such as the mournful “Ownerless Horse on the Battlefield at Mozhaisk in 1812,” by Adam Albrecht, the horses depicted are as much a projection of human feeling as they are simple studies in landscape or nature.
Yet there is another connection—that of humans’ and horses’ everyday lives in times past, for as the centuries rolled on to more modern times, artists recorded the quiet, rural spirit of farmers and their draft horses, the excitement of circus horses, and a record, albeit filtered through Western eyes, of Native American life ways in the 19th century.
Though much of the book has artwork—painting, sculpture, sketches, wall reliefs, and mosaics—depicting real subjects, sometimes in a glorified way, there is also a chapter on horses of myth, legend, and lore: Pegasus, centaurs, Neptune’s Horses as drawn by Walter Crane, Albrecht Dürer’s riders of the Apocalypse, and numerous others. Arthurian subjects, particularly those of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, are also represented.
Packed with beautiful, full-color images and excellent accompanying text, Tamsin Pickeral’s book is one to read, re-read, and cherish for fans of history, art, or horses. Also included are a timeline, an index and a listing of museums and art galleries of the horse.