Saturday, June 01, 2013


Years ago when I started this blog, one of my thoughts was to highlight a series of great horse's asses in art-- powerfully painted flanks that transform a whole picture.

After my first installment, I became caught up in exchanges with readers about aesthetics and metaphysics and other highfalutin stuff.  Today I realized that, seven years later, I haven't even made it to my second  horse's butt yet-- a sad state of affairs which I will now rectify.

Look at this fabulous, huge painting by Toulouse Lautrec from the Art Institute of Chicago:

Equestrienne (At the Cirque Fernando), 1887
 Lautrec was a brilliant graphic artist who frequently drew, rather than painted, with his paint brush.  This contributed a strong spine to many of his his paintings:

Nowhere was this done more powerfully than with this horse's haunches:

This ass is the engine that drives the whole painting.  Notice how the rubberized figures of the horse, the ringmaster and the rider are all foreshortened and stretched around the power of that butt.  The same with the curve of that striped barricade.

Perhaps Einstein developed his theory of relativity, about how spacetime curves around heavy objects, by studying this painting.  Someone should check to see if he was in Chicago at the time.


Tom said...

Is it the ass or the curves? Convexity is the surface of life. Check out the Durer show all his living forms are constituted of eggs. They account for the whole surface of the things they represent. In one drawing a horse's ass leads us right to Christ carrying the cross.

Nice post.

Anonymous said...

"Convexity is the surface of life." Are you talking about horses or women?

Donald Pittenger said...

So if Lautrec is the Lautrec of horse painters, can it be said that George Stubbs was ... um ... the Joshua Reynolds of same?

(Stubbs' horses were generally depicted in profile, making him a portrait painter of sorts, but some images via Google also show posteriors. I'll leave it to others to discern any incipient geometry there.)

Smurfswacker said...

I've never been much of a connoisseur of equine heinies, but I must say he certainly included all the ancillary equipment.

Larry said...

In Laurtec's hands a horses's ass looks simple, which it is not. Reminds me of a Leyendecker minus the creamy paint.

chris bennett said...

And look how the shape of the ring master within the white space of the ring itself is an echo of the horse's ass.

kev ferrara said...

A pedestrian equestrian, except Lautrec poops himself out on the latrine. (Which he’s drawn too loose and come up short.) What a backslide; not to crack wise, but this is truly the trots in bottoms. But “fabulous” you say! Neigh, I say! Rather than a first flank work, I get a whiff of a secondary air.

Poisonous as it is to say, I’m an arse cynic on this bum steed. Stick to your galloping gluteals, david, whinny on that poo all you want, but I’ll take a haunch back of a noted dame any day of the week.

chris bennett said...

Kev, if you think Toilet Latrine's version is bad, Sewer rat's 'La Cirque' will probably give you piles.
Personally speaking, I like them... Lautrec and Seurat that is.

ScottLoar said...

Good to see the remove from the artsy-fartsy.

अर्जुन said...

Whenever I hear Toulouse-Lautrec's name, I like to mention Cormon's studio. Toulouse-Lautrec's 5 years there provides this interesting pupil/master lineage:

Fernand Cormon ~ Jean-François Portaels ~ François-Joseph Navez ~ Jacques-Louis David
Fernand Cormon ~ Alexandre Cabanel ~ François-Edouard Picot ~ Jacques-Louis David

Matthew Harwood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve sculpts critters said...

I was going to just email, but couldn't find how, so anyhow...
I wanted to show you 2 things. One is the artist John Watkiss
who has long been an inspiration to me, and other are these artist grid cards on Kickstarter I launched

scruffy said...

Rectified? Damn near killedified it! :D

David Apatoff said...

Tom wrote: "In one drawing a horse's ass leads us right to Christ carrying the cross."

Durer was a smart man.

Anonymous-- I suspect there is no clear dividing line (not just with women but with all people).

Donald Pittenger-- I know Stubbs was famous for his knowledge of equine beauty and anatomy, but he clearly was not an ass man.

David Apatoff said...

Smurfswacker-- yes he sure did. Kind of takes you back to the weighty discussion of Barnett Newman's equipment in the comments from the previous post.

Larry-- agreed. Lautrec's labor was not in the time he applied the paint, but in the time he spent learning horses before he started this painting.

Chris Bennett-- Amen.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Let's just say you and I are split on the fundament of this issue.

ScottLoar-- I agree; nothing clears away philosophical longueur like a good, robust drawing.

अर्जुन-- you have mentioned Cormon before and I have learned from it (and been suitably impressed). It's good to have this reminder.

Steve sculpts critters-- Thanks for the two links, which I investigated and found quite interesting.

Scruffy-- Okay, okay.

deborah green said...

Concentric convexity plus an amazing horse drawing, creates a sense of breakneck speed, counteracted by the almost serene figure of the sidesaddle rider. Wow. And thanks for the heads up on Durer. Will look at him again, love his Apostles Feet.