Collector’s Focus: The Art of the Horse
John Steinbeck, who understood horses, wrote, “A man on a horse is spiritually, as well as physically, bigger than a man on foot.” Artists have drawn and sculpted horses for millennia. In the academies, students study the skeletal structure of their subjects and the attachment of muscles and flesh before they paint the spiritual and physical thing that inspired them.
Several years ago I visited Daniel Sprick in his studio as he was painstakingly assembling the bones of a horse whose carcass he had found, carried home in his pickup, cleaned and stored. The assembled horse and skeletal rider (whom Sprick did not find in a field) appear in his painting Snow Rider, 2016, as majestic as any fully fleshed horse ridden by a general or a king. Skeletons often appear in his paintings, startling as we madly attempt to put on muscles and flesh in our mind’s eye until we settle into the beauty of the structure, Sprick’s delicate attention to its details and his introduction of an ethereal light.
Polaris, the North Star, has been used in navigation since antiquity because of the relative steadiness of its position in the night sky. Daniel Bilmes paints with irregular brushstrokes that remain energetically themselves as they coalesce into images of haunting beauty, corporeal yet mystical. His confident abstraction is based firmly in his academic training. In Polaris, 2017, a young woman slumps on a horse’s back as it follows another young woman as she strides forward. Subtle shifts in color and technique bring to life the models’ diaphanous dresses, the horse’s glistening eye and his solid musculature.
Rimi Yang balances the abstract and the figurative in intuitive displays of bravura brushwork. A Korean artist, raised in Japan and now living in the U.S., Yang blends cultures into meditative images of universal but mysterious symbolism. She has said, “Mankind tries to order the un-orderable, explain the inexplicable. Do we really always need to reason, understand and structure, or could we instead seek out the vibration that connects all life in an instant?” Often her female figures are depicted with horses and are steeped in history while being uncompromisingly
contemporary. The musician in Journey of the Naked Goddess, for instance, sits on a horse reminiscent of the ceramic horses of the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907) with their unusual glazes. Yang’s horse is resplendent in colors the sculptors never would have imagined.
In Greek myth, Pegasus, the great winged horse, sprung from the blood of the Gorgon Medusa and was tamed by Bellerophon who rode him into victorious battle. Zeus rewarded Pegasus by making him a constellation. Today he is best known as the symbol of Mobil Oil. Lo, how the mighty have fallen.
Michael Bergt, in his intricate egg tempera painting, Shooting Star, 2016, depicts a falling horse and rider with the rider gazing at a falling star. Throughout history shooting stars have raised often diametrically opposed interpretations from souls being freed from purgatory to the souls of babies coming to take their place in the mortal coil. Almost universally, a shooting star has been thought of as a moment to make a wish. As enigmatic as his paintings, Bergt offers, “When you see a shooting star, quick make a wish. But what we don’t realize is a shooting star is simply a horse and rider falling from the sky after tiring of their time as a heavenly constellation. Perhaps it was Apollo deciding to release a horse to grant a favored wish of the vigilant observer. Stay alert…”
In the pages of this special section are horses—real and imagined—in both highly realistic and impressionistic renderings. Also provided are insights from gallery owners and artists on inspirations, the
market for equine art and much more.
When Barbara Zanelli draws or paints, it is for the sheer joy of it and, for her, it is an act of revelry, worship, pure and simple. “My job is to touch others’ hearts by revealing my own,” she says. “The horse has always been my favorite subject matter since I was a child and first fell in love. Whether gallantly galloping or peacefully grazing, the horse never fails to capture my imagination and enamored attention.”
Painting in traditional oils in a modern format, Carrie Nygren aims to capture the inherent spirit, character and personality of the horses that come alive on her canvases. “Whether it’s a portrait or a captured moment in action, there is nothing nobler than the horse and his relationship with man,” she says. “Each painting carries its own personal story.” Working in a contemporary style, J. M. Brodrick presents horse portraits that are loose, yet meticulous in the physical attributes. Brodrick elaborates, “I am a painter working toward merging my need for realism with the beauty of pure abstract,
“Choosing your art should be similar to how you choose your music—an escape from reality for a moment, leaving you feeling better for having experienced it.”
— J. M. Brodrick, artist
while trying to capturing the spirit of every horse I paint.”
Since a young age, Kristin Grevich has been interested in horses. Throughout the years she has shown horses, competed in both the Western and English worlds of riding, rodeo, fox hunting and more. “My infatuation with the horse has now taken on another path to my love of painting,” she says. “This is the year that I will be creating my series of horse paintings. I will be painting with all of the knowledge of horses that I have been fortunate to love and experience throughout my life.”
Laurie Justus Pace exhibits her equine paintings at a number of galleries in the country. Her painting Cliffhangers is available at the Fringe Gallery in Salt Lake City; The Herd - Return of the Painted Ponies is at Mirada Fine Art in Colorado; and Transcending will ship to La Jolla Gallery in California.
“In Laurie’s work we found the perfect combination of contemporary and Western,” says Eric Waddington of the Fringe Gallery. “Her work always boasts a gorgeous blend of colors, thickly textured brushstrokes and just enough artistic abstraction, combining for a fascinating statement piece on any wall.”
Steve Sonnen, owner of Mirada Fine Art, says, “Her passionate works are alive with movement and texture boldly created with a palette knife. Constantly pushing the edge, she loves working in oils, dramatically carving out the thick paint, fluid with
color and bursting with energy.”
Inspired by Sir Francis Bacon’s declaration that “Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished,” California artist Sally Ruddy is influenced by the emotions and intimacies of our world with landscape compositions that encapsulate subtle moments of awe and wonder. Recognizing the admiration for nature found throughout her series, Ruddy’s new Loving Nature Series expresses a profound love for tradition, family and her homeland.
Omitting fine details in the scenery, Ruddy creates a setting that is otherworldly, transporting her viewers into her intimate memories of family and self. With meticulous dedication to her subjects, her paintings are dreamlike and movingly sentimental as they vibrate with color and intrinsic emotion.
Born in Sacramento, California, in the 1940s, Milbie Benge became familiar with rural scenes as she traveled with her father during his missionary work. Her love affair with art and nature has spanned her entire life. Thanks to her travels in her youth, and visiting Europe and Asia as an adult, Benge has a wide and accurate knowledge of the countryside and its animals. From majestic stallions standing proud in their pastures to loving scenes of mares and foals frolicking in the lush landscape, she captures each scene with love and heartfelt pride. Her paintings are found at Fayette Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky.
April 2 to 5, the REVEAL International Contemporary Art Fair will take place at the Saratoga Springs City Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, bringing together 50 select galleries for its premiere edition. The fair is “thrilled that Emmanuel Fremin Gallery will exhibit the stunning equestrian portraits by acclaimed photographer Bob Tabor.”
1. Arcadia Contemporary, Polaris, oil on panel, 36 x 72", by Daniel Bilmes. 2. Nüart Gallery, Shooting Star, egg tempera on panel, 24 x 18", by Michael Bergt. 3. Daniel Sprick, Snow Rider, oil on board, 40 x 30" 4. REVEAL International Contemporary Art Fair, 5S5A9039, photography, ed. of 8, 72 x 36", by Bob Tabor. Courtesy Emmanuel Fremin Gallery.
5. Blue Rain Gallery, Journey of the Naked Goddess, oil on canvas, 48 x 48", by Rimi Yang. 6. George Billis Gallery, #7, graphite on canvas, 48 x 60", by Joseph Piccillo.
7. REVEAL International Contemporary Art Fair, 0059, photography, ed. of 16, 45 x 66", by Bob Tabor. Courtesy Emmanuel Fremin Gallery. 8. Barbara Zanelli, Andalusian, trace monotype, 22 x 18" 9. Barbara Zanelli, Bronze Horse, trace monotype and bronze leaf on paper, 12 x 12" 10. Carrie Nygren, Chasing it Down, oil, 36 x 50" 11. Carrie
Nygren, Capone, oil, 30 x 40" 12. J. M. Brodrick, Braveheart, acrylic, 20 x 16" 13. J. M. Brodrick, Cochise, acrylic, 20 x 16" 14. Fayette Gallery, Friends on a Misty Day, oil, 24 x 20", by Milbie Benge. 15. Fayette Gallery, A Fall Day, oil, 16 x 20", by Milbie Benge. 16. Laurie Justus Pace, Cliffhangers, oil on canvas, 36 x 36" 17. Laurie Justus Pace, The Herd - Return of the Painted Ponies, oil on canvas, 32 x 48" 18. Sally Ruddy, Horse Lovers, oil on canvas, 18 x 24"
19. Laurie Justus Pace, Transcending, oil on canvas, 36 x 36" 20. Kristin Grevich, Down the Stretch, oil on linen panel, 9 x 12" 21. Sally Ruddy, Hello?, oil on canvas, 16 x 20"