The Different Styles of Horse Paintings Over the Centuries

Talk about equine arts or go back in time. You would see that horses are examples of common artworks present out there. Seeing them enjoy a special place in a picturesque landscape, a strong character on a battlefield, and an obedient peasant in a market is correct to consider it a valuable asset since it has served in times of peace and war.

In this regard, from glorious representation to an on-duty peasant, artists have explored horses painting them in several roles. Looking at its importance in the world of art, let us look at some of the famous horse paintings of all centuries.

Whistlejacket by George Stubbs

The self-taught painter, George Stubbs, was inclined towards producing several iconic horse images throughout his career. In this regard, he created Whistlejacket in 1762, one of his most famous horse paintings showcasing the renowned racehorse of Marquess of Rockingham after winning £2,000 in York. Again, we see no landscape or crowd but a solid background and a racehorse with a distinguished flying mane and wide brown eyes staring at the viewer.

Stubbs has been known for recognizing horses as individuals. In the case of Whistlejacket, the artist draws clear emphasis on the physical features of the horse, as evident through the shadow of the white area on his right foot. Apart from this, Stubbs also portrays the inner characteristics of the horse, symbolizing his terror and taut muscles reflecting the energy and sensitivity of the horse in the picture.

Blue Horses by Franz Marc

Franz Marc had a deep love for animals and him. Horses reflected freedom. His famous horse painting, The Blue Horse, features three blue horses against the red hills in the background. The artist uses the color blue to showcase tranquility and calm. Marc was known to represent the Expressionist style of art, whereby he used emotional reality to portray his subject. He produced several animal paintings, but his horse paintings are the most famous. The artist believed horses to have human-like qualities, and thus it became his favorite topic to explore.

Marc has been known for his vivid visual language, where the colors he uses in his artwork have more profound symbolism. For instance, Marc uses red to show violence in contrast to blue, which represents spirituality and masculinity, as seen in his artwork, the Blue Horses. In line with the colors used, artists believe that Marc’s Blue horses represent elements of peace and harmony.

On a greater spectrum, Marc shows the connection between people and the Divine world through this painting, whereas the Blue Horses painted show God as the world’s greatest reality.

A Lion Attacking a Horse by George Stubbs

Since George Stubbs focused on painting horses, most of his works showcase horses in a relatively peaceful setting, grazing alongside a green landscape. However, Stubb’s artistic excellence let him explore the violent side of the horse, as seen in the famous horse painting A Lion Attacking a Horse.

The artist created a series of paintings under the same name, considered the initial romantic paintings painted by an English artist. The paintings of this series showcase the fierce lion, pouncing or in a much struggling state with the horse. The painting brings about an immediate response, and one can notice the fear present in the body of the animals.

In the realm of showing wild animals, Stubbs aced the sublime theme. Therefore, in contrast to the serene beauty, the sublime drew inspiration for an emotion patted by terror. The sublime, in this case, is in the form of a lion that comes into the wilderness.

Lady Godiva by John Collier

Horses have served several roles on various occasions, and in the case of the painting Lady Godiva, the horse is an example of royalty, honor, and obedience. John Collier paints ‘Lady Godiva’, showcasing a legendary story in Coventry of how the locals were burdened with heavy taxes. To end this tyranny, the noble Lady Godiva asks her husband, a wealthy Earl Leofric, to resolve the matter.

The drunk man agrees on one condition: he asks his wife to roam around naked. The lady keeps society first. As shown through the painting, she rides the horse with her head down and hair covering her naked body as she trod across the street. To honor this act, nobody is present on the streets.

Collier beautifully paints the scene showcasing a humble and confused lady. The contrasting soft colors mark her innocence and the blanket used. The well-painted muscles of the horse further create a sense of humility and strength and enhance the artwork’s overall humble yet courageous tone.

Two Horses in a Pasture by Edgar Degas

Two Horses in a Pasture is a fantastic oil painting created by Edgar Degas in 1971. The simplicity of the artwork is seen in the everyday scene of life. You see the basic farm life and the nature-aligned role of horses.

The artist uses soft brush strokes using simple colors to differentiate between the grass, the horses, and the sky. Each of these is evidently different and well recognizable. The horses appear strong and talk a lot about the diverse role of horses apart from grazing and being limited to landscape paintings.


From serving the royals to the commoners in the market, the horse has enjoyed a special place throughout the centuries. It has been known as a valuable companion on battlefields and noticeable individuals grazing the grass. At the same time, it is also explored for its terror-creating abilities.

Yet, its characteristics resembling humans surpass all the elements, and thus, this is the primary reason it holds a special place in the art world. For this reason, horse paintings are pretty famous; undoubtedly, every artist painting horses has had a different message to communicate.