AskHQ: Horses in art

Q: Why is the horse much less common today in art than he was previously?

A: Horses have appeared in works of art throughout history, but the number of horses being depicted in major artworks has certainly tailed off over the last few decades. The first reason put forwards for this by art historians is that horses no longer have the same vital function in today’s society. Previously the horse functioned in society as a mode of transport, and a key ally in battle, meaning that in most everyday scenes a horse would be depicted. Most horses today are owned solely for pleasure and are therefore not the focal points of daily life that they once were. This means that their incidental depiction in artworks has become less frequent, as they are less likely to feature in everyday scenes of modern life.

The other reason for the decline in the number of horses featuring in major artworks, cited by art historians, is that the equestrian portrait (a picture of a person on a horse) was a mode that was historically preferred by emperors, royalty and aristocracy for presenting themselves to the public. Today, in the age of the photograph, photographs are preferred as the means of depicting a rider on horseback, and even then, these pictures do not carry the same significance or importance as a traditional, historical equine portrait.