Lavish art for horse lovers; The Horse in Art, by John Baskett. Boston: The New York Graphic Society. $70.
Horse lovers would do well to gallop to the nearest bookstore to see this lavish tome. It tracks the history of the horse form prehistoric times to the present through pictorial representations (in 155 illustrations) by such masters as Leonardo, Raphael, Durer, Rembrandt, and Degas.
Despite its impressive pedigree, the book is geared more to the horseman than the art collector. First published in England, it reflects the special interest in British sporting art shared by both the author, an esteemed art historian and dealer, and collector Paul Mellon, who wrote the foreword.
As a result, sandwiched among the masterpieces in which the horse is integrated into a larger theme (as in Raphael's "St. george and the Dragon") are some inferior works which focus on the horse's athletic prowess in the fox hunt or the horse race.
Nonetheless art lovers will enjoy Titian's "The Emperor Charles V Before the Battle of Muhlberg," Rembrandt's "The Polish Rider," and other works which evoke the quintessential beast. One wonders why Calder's horses and Picassohs famous horse in "Guernica" have been omitted. But not to cavil, there are many outstanding features in this book, not the least of which is John Baskett's brief essay chronicling the horse in combat, recreation, and transportation.
One serious caveat must be added. The book is unusually wide, and its horizontal shape places stress on the binding, which, despite my careful perusal , my copy was not able to withstand.