Revisiting “The Horse Fair”

I revisit Rosa Bonheur’s famous painting every time I go to the Met in NYC.

I made a planes, trains and automobiles run to New York last week, flying to Westchester, then taxi/train/taxi to the city to visit my daughter, then bus/train out to Putnam County for two days of teaching, with the mom of the last rider ferrying me to Connecticut for the Weekend Educational Program put on by Lendon Gray’s Dressage4Kids.

My daughter knows what I like, so she immediately had us hoofing across town to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see their current exhibit of “The American West in Bronze,” including sculptures by Remington and Russell that I’d seen many times in pictures but never in person. It was absolutely wonderful seeing the horse in action so up close and in such marvelous detail. The exhibit continues through April 13, and anyone interested in horses visiting NYC before then shouldn’t miss it.

Then, of course, I had to revisit “The Horse Fair” by Rosa Bonheur. which I do every time I am in the Met. Growing up I was always fascinated by the painting, even though I’d only seen it in small reproductions. I didn’t even know where it was hung. Then, on my first visit to the Met two decades ago, I rounded a corner, and suddenly there it was right in front of me, as large as a house! I sent my family on their way and stayed to gaze at it for an hour. Over the years, the bench there was removed and I sat on the floor, or I had search it out when it was moved. It now has a bench again. I follow a pattern: look at it as a whole entity; then get up close for details, such as whether a particular horse is wearing shoes; then stand back again and appreciate each individual horse. I didn’t know my daughter was taking a phone photo of me from behind this time, but it’s a pretty typical pose.

A visitor to the Met who’s interested simply in art with horses could easily spend several hours there doing just that. The D4K committee several years ago did a docent-led tour of horse art at the Met (saving “The Horse Fair” for last), and it was truly memorable.

The featured speaker at the Weekend Educational Program this year was Dr. Hilary Clayton, leading expert on equine biomechanics. Any time I get a chance to hear her talk, I jump at it because she’s always fascinating. This time I learned some new things about foot structure and saddle/back issues. We had around 300 attendees. We have a video crew that gets the speakers to summarize their talks. These can be found at and on YouTube. The talks from 2013 are still available and the 2014 videos should be up soon.

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