(Picture courtesy of Stanbury on flickr.com.)
The figure of an ephemeral rider almost detached from his horse stands above and near the entrance from the north at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
The figure is distinct for its playful surreal quality, a greeting to the visitor. Its balance is precarious and urges us to resolve its problem, a weight almost dangerously thrown back on a dangerous path. The sculpture is one of a number of studies the artist, Marino Marini, made of the reckless rider on a figurative horse.
The evolution of the subject of the horse and rider reflects Marini’s personal response to that changing context. The theme first appears in his work in 1936, when the proportions of horse and rider are relatively slender and both figures are poised, formal, and calm. By the following year the horse rears and the rider gestures. In 1940 the forms become simplified and more archaic in spirit, and the proportions become squatter. By the late 1940s the horse is planted immobile with its neck extended, strained, ears pinned back, and mouth open, as in the present example, which conveys the qualities characteristic of this period of Marini’s work—affirmation and charged strength associated explicitly with sexual potency. Later, the rider becomes increasingly oblivious of his mount, involved in his own visions or anxieties. Eventually he was to topple from the horse as it fell to the ground in an apocalyptic image of lost control, paralleling Marini’s feelings of despair and uncertainty about the future of the world.
Marini is a major modern artist of the early twentieth century who is much associated with Etruscan work. He was a major influence in archaising form, simplicity to the point of abstraction, associated with the ancient world.
Marini’s sculptures appear in leading museums and are part of most collections of modern art. Intriguingly, there was little information about the artist, his life seems to have been directed mostly toward producing works of art, quite a nice touch. A museum of his works is located in Florence, Italy.
(Photo courtesy of genebee at flickr.com.)