Selected by Katerina Blackwood

MARINO MARINI, Cavallo, 1954


Marino Marini (1901-1980) is one of the most renowned Italian sculptors of the post-war period, as well as a prolific painter and printmaker. The subject matter of the rider on horseback dominated his works across all media. For Marini, the tandem of the rider and horse embodied a symbiosis between the forces of nature and man's reason or intellect - the relationship that continues to evolve since the dawn of age. In his formative years, Marini was heavily influenced by Etruscan and Roman art, known for its elaborate depictions of horses and equestrian subjects. He later noted: “...the entire history of humanity and nature can be found in the figure of the horse and rider, whatever the era. It is my way of narrating history. I need this character to give life to the passions of man." The artist laments the lost significance of this bond between the man and the beast: “The horse has been replaced, in its economic and military functions, by the machine, the tractor, the automobile or the tank. It has become a prime symbol of sport or of decadent luxury, and, in the minds of most of our contemporaries, it is rapidly becoming a kind of lost myth". 


While having key signature features of a Marini drawing, the present work is unusual because the composition lacks an image of the rider – a soldier or an acrobat, with the focus instead being directed solely on the horse. This is why I chose to feature this artwork. The animal no longer appears as a secondary character serving the man but is an independent being whose beauty and strength is highly praised by the artist. This admiration is shown through the horse’s powerful posture with lifted muzzle and all legs firmly standing on the ground. The coloristic contrast of red and black, further accentuated by pale highlights peeking through the dark background, channels primal energy of this animal. The images of horse and rider are depicting continuous evolution of Marino Marini’s art. In the 1950s, this subject remains present in his works but is notably charged with an energy that reflects the anxiety and instability of the new post-war era. In contrast to the tranquility and smooth bodies of Marini's horses of the 1930s and early 1940s, the present work indicates the artist's move towards a more expressive and mature rendering of this theme. In the 1950s, the harmonious shapes and pale colors used in the previous decades are replaced by the sharp angles and broken lines – perhaps, the artist’s reflection on damaging effects of war and uncertainty of the world in ruins, much like the reality we are dealing with now. This work reminds the modern viewer to look for solace in nature and its incredible ability to prosperously live on and flourish.   


MARINO MARINI (Italian, 1901-1980)

Cavallo, 1954
Gouache on paper laid on canvas
24 1/2 x 17 in / 62 x 43 cm
Signed and dated lower left
June 10, 2020