Arts & Culture

Groundbreaking Horse Art Show Mounted at UK


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 1, 2010) − The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky is presenting a groundbreaking exhibition to coincide with the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). "Hoofbeats and Heartbeats: The Horse in American Art" is the first significant exhibition to critically examine the role of the horse in American art, history and culture. This is the first time the Art Museum at UK has organized an exhibition of this stature, and it promises to have a lasting impact on American art history.

To view a transcript of the video above, please click on the transcript link just below the photo gallery. (Videos by Jenny Wells/UKPR)

More than 50 paintings and sculptures from museums across the country are showcased as part of this landmark exhibition, which includes works by famous artists like Edward Hicks, Frederic Remington, Edward Troye and Grant Wood. The show is also accompanied by a 100-page, full-color scholarly catalogue with contributions by prominent art historians and an introductory letter from Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear.

"This is Lexington’s opportunity to showcase American art, American history, and American horses of many breeds and types for our visitors from all over the world," states Kathy Walsh-Piper, director of the Art Museum at UK. "It is also a chance to show what Lexington’s premier art museum can accomplish."

The goal of the new exhibition is to engage visitors with the important role that the horse has played in the visual and cultural dialogue of America from the Revolutionary period to present day. Scheduled to coincide with Lexington's hosting of the World Equestrian Games, a world championship event in eight equestrian sports and the largest equine sporting event ever held in the United States, the museum looks forward to the opportunity to share the importance of the horse in American life and art with an extraordinary number of international visitors.

UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy comments, "As a leading public university, it is only natural that our Art Museum uses the WEG as an opportunity to educate our students and the public about historical and artistic aspects related to the Games. I am very pleased with plans for the exhibition."

Horses have played a crucial role in building the United States. They have carried generals into battle, forged the trail of westward expansion, wrangled for cowboys, and sprinted for jockeys in front of cheering fans. Horses have become a meaningful part of the American cultural identity, symbolizing heroism, wildness, hard work and prosperity. In art, the image of the horse reflects many larger political, cultural and philosophical concerns of American society. This exhibition seeks to survey both the image of the horse in American art and how it reflects aspects of the nation’s development.

The exhibition is divided into four sections that consider how the horse is pictured in American art: on the battlefield, in scenes symbolizing freedom, as a vehicle for physical labor, and as a source of recreation and personal inspiration. These categories generally correspond to chronological periods from the late 18th century to present day.

"Heroes: The Horse and the Battlefield" examines the crucial role horses played in the history of America in warfare from the Revolution through the Civil War and continuing with Native American disputes.

"Hoof Beats: The Horse as a Symbol of Freedom" considers the role of horses in historical paintings depicting stories of individual liberty or emancipation. Horses also conveyed the physical freedom afforded by the vastness of the American geography, particularly for painters of the American West.

"Horse Power: The Horse at Work in America" investigates the important role horses played in the growth of America, building and maintaining the nation with their reliable strength and willing spirit, and providing transportation until the advent of the gasoline engine and automobile at the beginning of the twentieth century.


Finally, "Heartbeats: America's Romance with Horses" assesses the role of horses in the post-Industrial age, shifting from the realm of labor to that of pleasure and enjoyment in the form or horse racing and sport.

Essayists for the project are Kirk Savage, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, whose book "Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America" won the 1998 John Hope Franklin Prize for the best book published that year for American Studies; Jessica Dallow, associate professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who is currently working on a book entitled, "America's Steed: The Horse in American Visual Culture, 1830 to the Present"; Sara Burns, a professor from the University of Indiana who authored "Pastoral Inventions: Rural Life in Nineteenth-Century American Art and Culture" and ”Inventing the Modern Artist: Art and Culture in Gilded Age America" that was awarded the 1996 Charles C. Eldredge Prize for outstanding research in the field of American art; and Ingrid Cartwright, an assistant professor of art history at Western Kentucky University who has authored many articles on equestrian themes and served as the consulting curator for the exhibition.

Cartwright was thrilled to be part of the groundbreaking exhibition and believes patrons will be excited with the wealth of work they see on display. "I hope people will come to the show and enjoy looking at the works of art, but also think about horses in a new way, and how they function in American history, and also how they’ve been used in and influenced American art, too," adds the curator.

As part of the exhibition running through Nov. 21, the Art Museum at UK will present lectures, workshops, readings and music inspired by the horse's role in America. To see a list of the remaining events, visit the museum's website online at:

Admission to the exhibition is $10 for general admission and $8 for seniors. Admission is free for all students and UK faculty, staff and alumni. The exhibition is free to everyone on Friday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. The museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday and from noon to 8 p.m. Friday. For more information, contact the museum at (859) 257-5716.

Also on view at the museum through Oct. 10 is "The Bluegrass Palette of Andre Pater," featuring the work of a Polish-born, Lexington artist known internationally for his sporting art which feature a myriad of equine images. Admission for "The Bluegrass Palette of Andre Pater" exhibition is $8 for general admission and $5 for senior citizens. All students and UK faculty, staff and alumni are admitted for free.

To view a transcript of the video above, please click on the transcript link just below the photo gallery.