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Everyone Should Have a Horse Painting

TM Davy, horse (xox) (2016). Courtesy of 11R, New York

BY Fernanda Arruda
collections advisor and adjunct curator of Instituto Inhotim in Brazil

In Must See

A long time ago, a painter friend of mine, Caetano de Almeida, gave me a painting of a horse and said: “Everyone should have a painting of a horse”. That intrigued me, but I didn’t think much about it. When I saw the exhibition “Horses” by TM Davy at 11R gallery, the phrase came back to me.

The show has nothing to do with the saying. Davy’s exhibition is based on his personal family history; he discovered through an old family photograph that the 11R gallery building used to be a stable that had belonged to his patrilineal great-great-great-grandfather—who fled Germany after the failed revolution of 1848-49 and opened a livery stable in New York. So, Davy’s new exhibition wound up being a show of horse paintings.

Equine paintings are among the most common works of art. The subject dates all the way back to the Paleolithic paintings on the Lascaux cave walls, which are estimated to be up to 20,000 years old. But, can we still talk about horse paintings today?


View of herd of horses, Lascaux Caves © Art Resource, N.Y.

In the past, horses were highly valuable, whether to the poor who would use them for labor and transportation, or the wealthy for whom the animals were a symbol of prestige and power.

Italian Renaissance artists such as Titian, Mantegna and Raphael portrayed horses in many situations—working, posing, rigid, lifeless, running. Leonardo Da Vinci was obsessed by them.

The tradition was then picked up by Baroque artists such as Rubens and Velàzquez; Romantics including Géricault and Delacroix; artists such as Franz Marc and Kandinsky, PicassoPicabia and Miró who all, at some point, depicted the animal.

Horses have been man’s companion throughout the eras. No matter the nation, the historical period or the culture, horses have managed to find their way into the heart of culture over many centuries.

It seems that we somehow are still captivated by them, despite the fact that they are less prominent in our culture. I am not sure what my friend really meant, but maybe it could be said that paintings of horses in some way encapsulate the tradition of art making. So, perhaps we all should have one.


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