Bonnie Hodges Art Gallery
 


Equine Art: The Tradition of Realism Continues in Texas
Cynthia Hodges, J.D., LL.M., M.A.

Texas artist Bonnie Martin Hodges has developed her own unique asthetic of equine portraiture in the realist tradition by drawing on the influence of American portraitist Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), British equine artist George Stubbs (1724-1806) and French artist Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899). Realism, as an artistic movement, evolved from naturalism. Naturalism arose in France in the late 19th century and remained in favor until the early 20th century. The movement was inspired by the principles of the natural sciences, especially those of Charles Darwin. Realism portrays subjects in a frank, unsentimental way. Hodges' non-idealistic work contains the element of honest searching common to realism. The external characteristics are faithfully represented with emphasis on the internal personality, i.e. the life's experiences are visible in the face and eyes of the subject. Stubbs' opinion that nature is superior to artifice is apparent in Hodges' paintings.

As a student at the University of Kentucky, Bonnie Hodges was deeply impressed when she saw Triple Crown winner Citation at Calumet Farms. She thus tries to convey the nobility of spirit in her pictures. Hodges would like the viewer to have the feeling that he or she can reach out and touch the subject's soft muzzle and stroke his sleek coat. She believes that the eye is the most important element, though, because it reflects the soul and is the key to the animal's personality. In order to capture the horse's essence first hand, she studies equine anatomy for structural detail because accuracy is crucial in her artwork. Both Eakins and Stubbs studied anatomy faithfully. Stubbs' \emph{The Anatomy of the Horse} (1766) is an important reference work for naturalists and artists alike. Eakins studied live models and visited lectures in anatomy at the Jefferson Medical School, even participating in dissections. Following that example, Hodges took anatomy classes at the Baylor College of Medicine.

In Hodges' opinion, the best mediums for animal portraits are oils and pastels, although guache, pencil and water color are excellent for smaller paintings. Pastels allow for a more impressionistic feel to the picture, however. Her portraits mainly have discreet backgrounds, which cause the viewer to focus on the horse's visage.

Jerry Goldstein, the owner of Post Oak Gallery in Houston, says this about her: "[Hodges] is an extremely versatile artist, which is unusual. She has the ability to be tight and expressive with a use of color value that is extremely good." Hodges feels that the overall impression of a work and the mood it inspires are the most important aspects. She says, "The end result is what is important in a painting and whether or not it is a pleasing composition." (Cooper 8a) Above all, Hodges' love of horses is the inspiration for her paintings of them.

Hodges has a B.A. in art from the University of Maryland. She also worked as an illustrator for the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. A selection of Hodges' oeuvres, including landscapes, still lifes, and portraits, are currently on display in private collections in the US and Europe.

References

Brittanica Online Bibliography
Cooper, John. "Bellaire Artist Shows Work at Post Gallery." West University Sun. March 28, 1995
Heller, Nancy G. Women Artists: an Illustrated History. Abbeville Press Publishers. Italy, 1991.

Article appeared in Contact: Central Dressage Society Newsletter. September 1999.

Please see updated version: Equine Art: the Tradition of Realism Continues

 

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