Lucy KEMP-WELCH<br/>
<em>Horses bathing in the sea</em> 1900 <!-- (recto) --><br />

oil on canvas<br />
152.9 x 306.5 cm<br />

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Purchased, 1900<br />
93-2<br />

© Estate of Lucy Kemp-Welch
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Horses bathing in the sea 1900
Media Release • 5 Aug 15

The Horse

From the mythical winged horse Pegasus to Phar Lap’s victorious Melbourne Cup, three thousand years of the horse in art will be displayed in the NGV Collection exhibition The Horse, opening on 14 August.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, ‘The horse has been a constant source of inspiration to artists throughout the world and across millenia. This exhibition celebrates the role of the equine in the history, folklore and development of civilisation through diverse works drawn from every department within the NGV Collection, from a gilded Japanese riding saddle to a painting from Sidney Nolan’s iconic Ned Kelly series.’

‘The exhibition will also present the long-believed missing 1930 Melbourne Cup won by Phar Lap, who became an object of national pride following his victory. This trophy is being especially lent to the NGV and will be displayed for the first time in an Australian art gallery, timing perfectly with Australia’s most spectacular racing event, the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival,’ said Mr Ellwood.

More than 250 works of art, including antiquities, major paintings, riding garments, saddles, sculptures, trophies and decorative arts from artists including Goya, Rembrandt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Brack, Frederick McCubbin and Jenny Watson, will be showcased.

The exhibition will explore the role of the horse in myth, legend and miracle; the pomp and ceremony of pageantry; the equine’s role in conflict and warfare; the demands of pre-industrial transportation and labour; and more recent manifestations as an object of pleasure through sport and entertainment.

Including a range of works from 1000 BC to the present day, The Horse begins by delving into ancient depictions of the animal in Greek, Chinese and Indian mythology. Horses were frequently depicted as loyal steeds of gods and goddesses, including the Greek sun god Helios who was told to drive a horse-drawn carriage across the sky each day. Images of centaurs, unicorns and the Hindu sun god Surya will be depicted alongside imagery of legends such as the equestrian Amazon women and the Trojan War, and sumptuous textiles and decorative arts from China and India.

Equated with vitality and power, the horse was central to the expansion and maintenance of dynasties, including those of Egyptian pharaohs and European rulers. From scenes of knights jousting to the military victories of Louis XIV, the horse’s role in power and conflict will be explored through ancient Egyptian textiles, Renaissance bronzes, Albrecht Dürer prints and illuminated manuscripts, among other items.

The Horse closely examines Australia’s relationship to the animal, which arrived in small numbers with the First Fleet in 1788. Horses quickly became symbols of the resilient Australian character, adapting to harsh conditions and playing a critical role in the viability and future of the colony. Artworks which show archetypal Australian imagery, such as the infamous mounted bushranger Ned Kelly, wild brumbies and the elite Light Horsemen of the First World War will be displayed. For Indigenous Australians, the horse was a puzzling import which came to represent oppression, and The Horse will reveal works by Indigenous artists, including Angelina Pwerl Ngal.

The Horse will also focus on horseracing and the style and glamour of ‘fashions on the field’. On display will be documentary photographs of major races, such as the Melbourne Cup and English Derby, as well as fashion and equestrian attire, including an elaborate nineteenth-century women’s carriage outfit, an iconic Akubra Drover hat, a 1948 Hermès Riding habit and a playful, jockey-inspired creation by Australian fashion designer Linda Jackson.

The Horse is accompanied by a beautifully illustrated 96-page publication which provides a visual exploration of the equine’s remarkable presence in art, history and mythology. Available from the NGV design store for $29.95.

The Horse is on display at NGV International from 14 August – 8 November 2015. Open 10am–5pm, closed Tuesdays. Free entry.