Students Respond: “Horse II”

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Carl Robert Holty
Horse II, 1945
Oil on masonite, 53 x 39.5
Gift of The Albert A. List Family Collection

Carl Robert Holty’s Horse II (1945) first caught my eye because of the great sense of motion. The horse moves out of the canvas with its head tilted and its body fragmented into a smattering of shapes. The figures on its back blur into a yellow-blue flame, their orange faces augmented in the chaos. The horse is full of seeming dichotomies, walking the line of muscle and fleshiness. The shapes that carve out his body are of gentle pinks, purples and blues while they inherit harshness from their forms reminiscent of collage or woodcuts.

At this moment I am staying with my grandmother and revisiting photographs of when she came to the United States in 1946 as a German-speaking refugee. Holty himself was an immigrant from Germany decades before. The central figure wears a tri-corner hat nodding to the image of Paul Revere and other American revolutionary myths. Yet this is not an explicit recall of Americana. This is a gentle patriotism, with its subdued colors. For both my grandmother and Holty, I ask, what does it mean to be a patriot when you have the affect of the enemy? Is the melding of disparate elements an effort to reconstruct a heroic image in a way that doesn’t exclude the artist? Altogether, there is a gentle strength to this image, a soft charge forward through tumultuous times.

-Nick Roblee-Strauss ’22

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