The Noble Horse — Arabian Horses for the Sultanate of Oman Exhibition
“The horse is an archetypal symbol which will always find ways to stir up deep and moving ancestral memories in every human being.” —Paul Mellon
“And God took a handful of southerly wind, blew his breath upon it, and created the horse.” —Bedouin legend
I have admired Lynne Gleason’s extraordinary work for years. She is one of those rare artists whose creative expression ranges from paintings on canvass and wood, to dazzling watercolors and pastels, to fine art prints and sculpture, to arte povera assemblages, all of it rendered with incredible skill, sensitivity and beauty. When one views the amazingly detailed and dramatic paintings and sculptures of horses in this exhibition, it is interesting to note that the primary focus of her early work was abstract. (She once said that abstract considerations are always an integral part of her realistic work.) She later shifted to more realistic work concentrating on portraying the human figure, then moving to still life, then to nature. Whatever her subjects, Lynne’s work invariably reflects her fascination with the delicate interplay of light and shadow, and that, in turn, infuses her paintings with a kind of dynamic tension that irresistibly pulls the viewer into the work.
Although Lynne has had a lifelong passion for horses, her epiphany with them came while she and her husband Howard were living in London. She and Howard lived in a flat overlooking the Royal Household Cavalry, and she began painting the Queen’s horses and Royal Guards which she could observe from her balcony. When the Commanding Officer of the Cavalry saw her work, he was so taken with it, he provided her with a studio in the barracks with unprecedented access to the stables, training sessions and Royal performances. In due time, a magnificent book illustrating Lynne’s drawings, watercolors and paintings of the British Ceremonial Horses was published, and in the following years, she was invited to work with the military and ceremonial horses of France, Holland and Austria.
This remarkable journey led Lynne to explore the relationship of horse and man throughout history. One of her most successful series from a collector’s point of view is her “Alexander the Great” collection, the painterly patina of which went from marble to bronze, all miraculously rendered through color and paint.
Lynne was invited to the Oman National Day Celebration in 2010 and, during her stay, was invited to do this exhibition at the Museum Bait al Baranda. Given the opportunity to focus on the magnificent and unique qualities of the Arabian horse, she has been able to express her love and reverence for the horse in works that defy description. As she herself has said:
“I am fascinated by the power, spirit and gentleness of the horse. I marvel at how they can be so friendly, yet aloof; so independent, yet willing to serve; so free and yet loyal. They are, as has been so beautifully expressed: ‘Nobility without pride; Beauty without vanity; Friendship without envy’.”
This marvelous exhibition of Lynne Gleason’s work presents the Arabian horse in all its glory. As you walk through the exhibition, walk slowly, look closely. It’s all there in full, vivid, majestic display: nobility, playfulness, intelligence, power, gentleness, indomitable spirit. She has captured the beauty and magnificence of the horse in form and motion, light and shadow. And in doing so, she has somehow magically revealed the horse’s connection to us all.
Commission Chair, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
• To See the Oman Exhibition Press Coverage, click here.
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