TPH Book Review – The Book of the Horse: Horses in Art

This double-page spread of Andre Brasilier's Normandy Beach (1998) caught my attention immediately.

BY KELSEY ALLEN

One of the first things I ever learned to draw was the head of a horse. I’m not sure if my love of art developed out of a desire to draw pictures of my favorite ponies, or if I would have found my way to studying art no matter. Either way, the two have always been twined together. I would go to art museums and make a beeline straight for statues of horses. I kept a sketchbook in my tack trunk, and drew horses as often as I could. I am always looking for an excuse to tie my love of horses to my current studies as an art and film student, which is why I am so excited about The Book of the Horse: Horses in Art by Angus Hyland and Caroline Roberts.

Whether you are a horse lover, an art lover, or both, you are sure to love The Book of the Horse. This book compiles imagery and artwork from throughout history from all over the world in vivid single or double-page spreads. It covers a wide range of mediums, such as oil paintings, sketches, woodblock printing, and photography. Some of the double-page spreads will take your breath away. Since art includes written word as well, the book is also interspersed with short quotes about horses.

Anyone who wishes to be an equine photographer should check out Juan Lamarca’s photographs, such as his 2017 Crawssina Lines.

So many different styles are represented in this book that no matter what your taste is, you are sure to find pieces that capture your attention. If you prefer photorealism, check out Joe Coffey and Tony O’Connor. Aspiring equine photographers might benefit from a close study of Juan Lamarca’s work. A more art-history minded reader will appreciate the inclusion of impressionist, expressionist, and surrealist movements. And of course, any equestrian will appreciate how George Stubbs captures the tradition and history of our sport.

George Stubbs provides a historical context to the book with paintings such as Turf, with Jockey up, at Newmarket (1766)

Even if you haven’t studied art or art history, you are sure to recognize some of the names included in this book. Franz Marc is famous for his Blue Horses; no equine art book is complete without his work. However, the Book of the Horse also includes little-known paintings by wildly popular artists. Though Albrecht Dürer, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, and Georgia O’Keefe are all famous for their other work, each has been drawn to horses at least once in their career. Several paintings are accompanied by a short paragraph detailing the history of the piece, often sharing little-known anecdotes about the artist’s life or the painting’s subject.

Edgar Degas is most famous for his dancers, but his skill is also evident in his artwork Race Horses (1885-88)

Each artist captures something different about horses. Some delicately depict the way light and shadows fall on a horse at rest; others capture a herd in a moment of explosive movement. Some pieces emphasize photorealistic anatomy and detail, others favor vibrant colors and an impressionist style.

Hiroshi Yoshida’s woodblock print, Numazaki Pasture (1928), portrays a peaceful herd in a dreamlike style.

It’s impossible to flip through this book without crafting a wishlist of pieces to put on your wall at home. Those who love horses often find themselves captivated by their beauty; readers of The Book of the Horse will find themselves similarly captivated by the artists that have managed to translate that beauty onto canvas. With the holidays coming up, The Book of the Horse would make for a great present for both the horse and art lovers in your life.

And if anyone wants to buy me André Brasilier’s Normandy Beach for Christmas, I’ve already cleared a spot on my wall for it! Bottom line – this book will satisfy any horse or art lover with its perfect mix of both.