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Equine Art: The Tradition of Realism Continues

Cynthia Hodges, J.D., LL.M., M.A.

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-
Bonnie Hodges idealistic work contains the element of honest searching common to
Equine Artist realism. The external characteristics are faithfully represented with
Email: 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.

Online Portfolio: As a student at the University of Kentucky, 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'
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 gouache, pencil and water color are excellent for
smaller paintings. Pastels allow for a more impressionistic feel to the
picture, however. Hodges’ 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
“[Hodges] is an extremely versatile artist ... [with] the
ability to be tight and expressive with a use of color value
that is extremely good."
~ Jerry Goldstein

Hodges has a B.A. in Studio 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' oeuvre, including
landscapes, still lifes, and portraits, are currently on display in private
collections in the US and Europe.

Bonnie Hodges is now located in the Seattle-area. Please see her

online portfolio at


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.

This article originally appeared in Contact: Central Dressage Society

Newsletter. September 1999, and is available online at http://

Artwork Ⓒ Bonnie Hodges

About the Author

Cynthia Hodges has a J.D. and an LL.M. in Environmental/Animal

Law, and a B.A. and an M.A. in Germanic Studies. She has
approximatley 20 years experience training and showing dressage.
Hodges has had a number of articles published about dressage and
animal law. She is also a published translator. Please visit her
website,“Classical Dressage” at for
articles about dressage.

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