Here are two books about art and horses open on my kitchen table this morning.
The top spread is from Dr. Seuss’s The Horse Museum, which was produced from an undated, unfinished manuscript that Theodore Geisel’s widow found in a box. (In the 1950s, before his children’s books had become popular, Geisel had worked on a television series called Modern Art on Horseback.)
This posthumously published text recently discovered in Ted Geisel’s studio uses horse-focused art pieces to provide historical context to artistic movements. Showing art ranging from the Lascaux cave paintings to an untitled 1994 sculpture by Deborah Butterfield, Joyner’s playful illustrations surround the curated photographs of art pieces. By using horses as the departing point in the artistic journey, Seuss and Joyner are able to introduce diverse perspectives, artifacts, and media, including Harnessed Horse from the northern Wei dynasty, a Navajo pictorial blanket titled Oh, My Beautiful Horses, and photographs by Eadweard Muybridge.
My personal favorite part of the book is the appendix in the back which goes through each individual piece of art featured in the book and its creator’s relationship, if any, to horses.
I got to thinking how interesting it would be to go through the archives of my own favorite artists and compare horse pictures.
Here, for example, are some of Saul Steinberg’s drawings of horses:
The other book on my kitchen table is unlike any book I’ve ever read. Heidi’s Horse, originally published in 1975, is a book by the painter Sylvia Fein, collecting her daughter’s drawings from her very first marks at the age of 2 up until the age of 17. (Fein was inspired by the Henry Schaefer-Simmern’s The Unfolding of Artistic Activity.) It’s a wonderful record of how the visual mind develops over time.
The book can be hard to track down, so here are the sections summarizing Heidi’s progression:
Here’s another page focusing only on Heidi’s horse heads (the title is, admittedly, kind of terrible, at the very least it should be Heidi’s Horses, plural):
In 1985, Sheila Graber animated Heidi’s Horse into this 16-minute film:
And here’s a great video from 2006 of Fein talking about the progression of children’s drawings and Heidi’s Horse:
If you sit down with a kid and watch them draw, it’s the most wonderful experience in the world. You’re seeing transformation right in front of your eyes.
The book has been hugely influential on me as I track the progress of my youngest son’s drawing.
More about kid’s art and art history: “Caveman drawings”