Feb 7 2013 10:00am

Picturing Horses

John Bauer

Welcome to another edition of “Picturing...” You don’t have to be an accomplished equestrian to see that horses are magnificent creatures—majestic, fierce, gentle, wise, often all at once. They are a staple throughout art history in general, as well as in fantasy illustration. Putting this collection  together, it was tough to know when to stop building; the amount of fantastic drawing and painting about horses seems limitless.

Above: Scandinavian folklore painter John Bauer. I have Charles Vess to thank for introducing me to Bauer’s wonderful fantasy work—he is now an all-time favorite of mine (both Charlie and Bauer.)


Duel in the Kulikovo, by Russian artist Michael Avila.

Michael Avila


Ivan Bilibin painted many horses while illustrating various Russian fairy tales.


I started out strong with the Russian painters; here’s Viktor Vasnetsov’s somber A Knight at the Crossroads.


Greg Manchess’s Cheyenne Medicine Hat, a children’s book about wild mustangs by author Brian Heinz.

Greg Manchess


I could have included hundreds of great Western paintings, but with limited space, decided to let this Frank Tenney Johnson speak for the genre.


Frank Craig’s Joan of Arc. I would love to see this in person. Beyond the inherent drama of the piece, it’s interesting to note how the movement of the lances directs the frenetic action of the horses...


Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair is one of my favorite paintings. I’m lucky enough to live near New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it lives—it’s an enormous piece with perfect light and movement. If anything depicts the power and grace of a horse, it’s this painting.


A colorful and joyous royal wedding scene by Paja Jovanovic.


Frank C. Papé, an English artist, taking on the Russian folk tale “Falcon the Hunter.”

Frank C. Pape


Gustav Klimt’s The Golden Knight. One of the world’s most beloved painters, known for his extensive use of patterns.

Gustav Klimt, The Golden Knight


Strength and delicacy in Michael DumasTrust.


Honoré Daumier with Don Quixote’s slow and faithful Rocinante.


Gustave Dore with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Gustave Dore


Techno visual-performance artist Android Jones.


Edgar Degas, getting out of the ballet studio every now and then, did a number of great paintings of race horses.


Sam Weber’s mechanical horse...


....and Lars Leetaru’s mechanical horse.


I don’t know how this is attributed but I must have been seen it at the Metropolitan Museum’s Cloisters. Even as a kid, I loved the color and pageantry of it.


The always stylish and graceful Kay Nielsen.

Kay Neilsen


Jillian Tamaki from the Folio Society’s Irish Myths and Legeends.

Jillian Tamaki


One of the famous unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters


Viktor Koen’s steampunk horse, for George Mann’s novel The Immorality Engine.


I love the posterized style of Norbertine Bresslern-Roth’s animal paintings.


Petar Meseldzija, a contemporary European illustrator with a classical style.

Petar Meseldzijaart


Charles Vess with an interior drawing for The Wheel of Time series.


Andrej Dugin and Olga Dugina, a pair of absolutely brilliant children’s book illustrators.


Brad Holland’s always dreamlike, bold shapes, perhaps inspired by our first illustrators.


Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer, arguably one of the most famous fantasy illustrations of our day.

Frank Frazetta


Another from Degas: Race Horses at Longchamp.

Degas Race Horses


Howard Pyle, the father of American illustration.


From The Boy’s King Arthur by N. C. Wyeth (a student of Pyle’s.)


Alice and Martin Provensen. I think I love everything they’ve ever drawn and painted.


Tristan Elwell and his dramatic cover for Ashling.


Mark Summers, known for his Barnes & Noble author portraits.


Twin Italian illustrators Anna and Elena Balbusso and their Song of Roland for the Folio Society.


Victo Ngai, a rising superstar in illustration (and frequent contributor to


Wesley Allsbrook


George Bellows, more famous for his depictions of boxing, shows us a sweet and content horse on a hill. 


I stumbled onto the wonderful book art of Carl Otto Czeschka at an antiquarian book fair. I love his bold graphics.


I love the oddly constrained world that Chris Silas Neal creates across his images.


Edmund Dulac illustrating Edgar Allan Poe’s “Eldorado.”

Edmund Dulac, Eldorado


Alex Kanevsky, I love his razor thin surfaces.

Alex Kanevsky


Jaime Jones, a great concept artist.


Arthur Rackham illustrating Wagner’s The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie. Here we see Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Equestrienne (At the Cirque Fernando). If you are in Chicago, go check it out at the Chicago Art Institute.


Odilon Redon, a learned centaur.


Alan Lee, one of the premier Tolkien artists, depicting the Ringwraiths’ horses.


Zdzislaw Beksinski, always painting the stuff of nightmares.

Zdzislaw Beksinski


Superb illustrator-turned-gallery painter Mark English.


Richard Anderson derives a ton of strength and movement from his angular brush strokes in this piece.


Part of Greg Ruth’s 52 Weeks project, in which he created a quick, self-assigned drawing every week for a year. For those that followed along, the drawings were amazing (no less so the mini essays that went with them).


Raymond Swanland, horses ready for battle in Glenn Cook’s Book of the South.

Raymond Swanland


Going back to the beginning, a Lascaux horse.

Lascaux horse


Allen Williams, one of my favorite obsessive drawers.


Jacopo Bellini, from a painting that I know about only because of the wonderful Milton Glaser documentary To Inform and Delight.


I’m no fan of Brave but, man, was that horse fantastic. Here’s a sample of Carter Goodrich’s concept art for it.


Sergio Toppi, one of the comics industry’s best.


Victor G. Ambrus’s loose and free linework.


J. C. Leyendecker and Robert E. Lee. How he can be so precise without ever looking labored is beyond me. (Bragging rights: the study for this is hanging in the living room.)


Stephen Hickman did a great series of Middle-earth paintings for a Tolkien calendar.


Greg Manchess painted 60 covers for Louis L’Amour’s books; this one for Milo Talon.

Greg Manchess


The superb caricaturist Heinrich Kley. In much of his work he mixed fantasy themes with contemporary political issues of the early 1900s.


I love the simple shapes in this drawing from Nika Goltz.


Another from Heinrich Kley.


I’ve never shown sculpture in these posts before, but Beth Cavener-Stichter (besides being one of my favorites) is a very painterly sculptor.


Art deco Musketeers from Charles Verschuuren.


N. C. Wyeth’s Launcelot and Guenevere.


And a very small horse in a very pretty landscape from Allen Song.


There are two great painters names John Collier. This is the elder of the two, showing us everyone’s favorite rider, Lady Godiva.


Another one from concept artist Jaime Jones. You can just feel the morning light in this one.


Swiss symbolist painter Arnold Bocklin with the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Arnold Bocklin


John Picacio’s Elric.


Alfonnse Mucha is known for his poster work, but to tell you the truth, I like his painting even more.


I thought we’d end things as we began them, with another from John Bauer.

John Bauer

Irene Gallo is the Art Director for Tor Books.

Peter Wake
1. Peter Wake
great pictures, I have a few Stubbs prints on the wall but that's about it
Jodi Chamberlain
3. jodichamberlain
My favorite out of all those STUNNING images?--The Provenson's. Thanks for including them.
Laura Southcott
4. tallgrass
Ooooh wow. So many pretty horses. I'm especially glad that you mentioned Lascaux - it's so amazing that we've been painting horses for basically as long as we've been painting.

I had a book when I was a kid called "The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses"; it has some of my favourite animal illustrations in a style that's quite different from any pictured here.
Peter Wake
5. berthok
This is one of the most inspiring collections I've seen. Thank you so much for bringing this together!
Laura Southcott
6. tallgrass
And more - I just remembered this scientific paper, which suggests that our prehistoric ancestors were better at drawing horses than modern humans are!
Peter Wake
7. Margaret Organ-Kean
This was a great set. I'd suggest including George Stubbs, especially his "Whistlejacket" and something by CW Anderson, an outstanding equine artist from the mid-twentieth century.
Irene Gallo
8. Irene
Thanks, guys!

As always, I’ll spend teh rest fo my life kicking myself for not including such-and-such. Feel free to leave as many sugestions as you’d like in the comments.
Irene Gallo
9. Irene
@6. tallgrass,

Amazing. I cant wait to read through that when I get home.
Holly Bird
10. HollyBird
My very favorite subject! Thank you! (Whoa. You have Leyendecker's study for the Robt. E. Lee/Traveller piece? *respect!*)
Peter Wake
11. Lucia
An incredible gallery of work: thank you so much for posting this, Irene. I could stare at that final piece by John Bauer all day.

My all-time favourite equine artist is Annette Macarthur-Onslow, a woman I can find very little information about. She illustrated the magnificent Silver Brumby books, by Elyne Mitchell. It's really hard to find examples of her work online, but here is one of my favourites:

She always managed to capture the movement I see in my own horses every day, and I love her work dearly. I wish I could find high quality prints.
Peter Wake
12. Walter Jamieson
Since you broke with your tradition and included a sculpture, I would like to suggest that you missed a good bet by not including a T'ang horse, of which many examples are among the best of all horse images. The Mucha was a revelation to me. Thanks for including it.
Peter Wake
13. Lessa
I love paintings of horses - preferrably ones without humans in them. As a former player of the TCG Magic: The Gathering, I collected every card in the game that had a horse on it. My favorite was the *original* artwork for the card 'Nightmare' - that is one awesome horse! The later artwork for that card left a lot to be desired.
Constance Sublette
14. Zorra
Like everyone else, I appreciated this collection enormously (well, maybe not the Robert E. Lee, for obviouse reasons :) ). Like everyone else I am sorry that a particular favorite wasn't included: Walter Farley's The Black! of The Black Stallion series of books that I adored with a passion never before or after adored.

I also appreciate I get to see Bonheur's painting in the Met. A repro hung behind the counter, of all places, our very tiny town's butcher (we didn't live in the town, but on a farm 5 miles nw), who mostly made his living by carving up the animals our rural community kept for themselves out of the year's pigs and cattle -- most were sold, of course, and storing them in his meat lockers, which space we rented. Even though we all had huge freezers in the basement, you couldn't keep entire steers and pigs in them. Especially as it was packed with frozen chickens that we butchered and dressed outselves, and all the veggies and fruits we prepared and froze, and the enormous amount of baked goods we baked ourselves too. And ice cream. Which we didn't make ourselves, and which, with our dads' cover, we'd raid in secret.

Every few weeks our moms would stop and pick up the next month's meat and then store it in the freezer at home. Imagine then, what it was like for this horse crazy girl to see the real Bonheur Horse Fair for the first time, without warning, on her first visit to the Met when 15. I didn't even know until then it was an actual painting with a history and creator.

The sculpture you included made me think of the prodigeous energy of men, women, monsters, centaurs and horses that are captured in less relief in the Elgin Marbles -- which I've had the great privilege of seeing too.

Museums! Let's hear it for museums (despite their earned criticisms, still, for we, the privileged, we've learned so much from their collections).

Love, C
Tara Chang
15. tlchang
I so adore your painting threads Irene. So many horses! So hard to choose.

I've always loved Neptune's Horses by Walther Crane.

In Junior High, I was enamored with the Pegasus on the cover of Steve Miller Band's Book of Dreams (who painted that? Does anyone know?)

And I still love all those medieval knights on horses on the Bayeux tapestries - among many many other horse paintings.
F.J. Bergmann
16. fjbergmann
I don't think John Picacio can have given much thought to Elric's steering procedure. With BOTH reins on the left side and the flaming sword waving on the horse's right, he's gonna be making a lot of little tiny circles widdershins. Of course, that could be a tactical ploy ...
Peter Wake
18. Rhonda Lane
Thank you. These are wonderful. And so much variety. I've bookmarked the page, too. Maybe I'll figure out a way to link to this on my own horses-and-culture blog, The Horsey Set Net.
Peter Wake
19. imbubbasmom
LOVE this post! I second Margaret O-K's C.W. Anderson recommendation. I have a couple of sets of prints by him; his thoroughbreds are wonderful.

I'd also like to recommend Tim Cox, in particular his "Coming in at Sundown." I have that print, plus "Little Boys Dream the Biggest Dreams." His horses are amazing. I covet one of his newer works, "A Well-Earned Drink," a gathering of horse faces on a hot day around a water tank. You can almost feel the water dripping.

Thanks for this!
Peter Wake
20. tbback
Thanks for sharing Bauer. My elementary school had a long hallway full of Bauer prints.

More: Caricaturist/illustrator Caran D'Ache did some wonderful one page comics about the life of celibrity horses in 1890's Paris.

Lionardo da Vinci considered horses superior to humans in every way. He spent almost a decade trying to make the biggest bronze horse ever. And failed.
Chin Bawambi
21. bawambi
Wow just WOW! I will be sending this link to several horse friends I know. Out of the ones I've been lucky enough to see in person I am always mesmorized by Bonheur's The Horse Fair - it is majestic.
Matthew Stewart
22. mattstewart
Great Post! One of my favorites has to be Friedland, by Ernest Meissonier. I have to stop by it and stare for 20 minutes at least on every visit to the Met.
Miss Kai
23. wolfkit
Plus my personal favourite - Napoleon Hoka by Michael Whelan
Peter Wake
24. LeslieC
Thanks for the amazing horses depicted above!!!

One of my favorite book illustrators is Wesley Dennis (King of the Wind, Smoky the Cowhorse, etc.).

I also love the paintings (often seen in her calendars) by Lesley Harrison; they look like beautiful photographs.
Peter Wake
25. CommanderBanana
Beautiful! I love this blog series.

I'm glad Sleipnir made it in, although I'm kind of sad that Keith Thompson's Sleipnir didn't!
Peter Wake
26. virologygirl
I've always been fascinated by Albrecht Durer's wood cut of 'The Knight, Death, and the Devil'

'A Cold Morning on the Range' by Frederic Remington has great action in it (as do a lot of his paintings depicting horses).

And finally, 'The Horses of Roan' by Maggie Stiefvater (in the style of John Singer Sargeant) which is how she pictured her water horses in 'The Scorpio Races'
Peter Wake
27. sixdeaftaxis
Thanks for the amazing collection of pictures. The citation for your tournament knights can be found at the bottom of this page:

Thanks to Google's "Search by Image" plugin for finding that!
Tomas Gerst
28. IamnotSpam
For mechanical horses I always loved the covers of Christopher Stasheff's Warlock series. Stephen Hickman's Fess was the way I always pictured him to be. Just my two cents. Liked everything you picked as well.

Link to cover
Peter Wake
29. tleilani
I also loved ALL THE PRETTY HORSES by Susan Jeffers,

illustrations by Sam Savitt,

and the hidden images of Bev Doolittle.
Peter Wake
30. Kerry Hennigan
Wonderful art!
Peter Wake
31. Mark Paterson
Greg Ruth and
Beth Cavener-Stichter I like the most . The sculpture is almost too cruel. Yet so ! There are many wonderful paintings Longchamp Degas has always been a fav' even tho' there is no real movement .
Cynthia Ahmar
32. tenkuu
From The Bold and the Beautiful, you wouldn't happen to know who made the horses painting in Eric Forrester's office?
Peter Wake
33. Raskos
Nice to see the Lascaux horse again. My mother hung a print of it on my bedroom wall when I was a kid.
Jeff LaSala
34. JLaSala
Evocative list! That Meseldzija one is particularly great. The horse is fantastical, but still quite familiar compared to the creature (troll?) lurking beneath.

I was sad to see Shadowfax not included. But you know what's also great? Jeff Easley's cover of the old Legends and Lore AD&D book, which has Odin riding Sleipnir. Who doesn't love an eight-legged horse?
Peter Wake
35. Ellen W.
I love Peter-Paul Reubens' portrait of the Duke of Lerma (not the best version) - it really looks as if the horse thinks it's a portrait of him. All of Reubens' horses look pretty to me- it's a little strange when it's a battle painting.
Peter Wake
36. Joy V. Smith
Fantastic collection, including some classics such as a Frazetta print, the unicorn on a tapestry, and The Horse Fair. (I have a big print of The Horse Fair on my dining room wall. It sat in my closet for a long time until I could get it framed.)
Pamela Adams
37. PamAdams
Wonderful as always. Whenever you do Picturing..., I like to post one as my desktop for the next week or so. Your choices make for some tough decisions. (The winner this time is Elric)

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