Originally featured in Points West magazine in Spring 2019
Albert Bierstadt’s White Horse and Sunset
Ah, steeds, steeds, what steeds! Has the whirlwind a home in your manes? Is there a sensitive ear, alert as a flame, in your every fiber? Hearing the familiar song from above, all in one accord you strain your bronze chests and, hooves barely touching the ground, turn into straight lines cleaving the air, and all inspired by God it rushes on! ~Nikolai V. Gogol, Dead Souls, 1842 (translated from Russian)
So integral was the horse to the American West that there’s hardly a story about the West that doesn’t include at least one. The relationship with its owner is described variously as magical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or all of the above.
And a white horse was something special—the one the “good guy” rode. Indeed, the “Pacing White Stallion” or “White Steed of the Prairies” is a prominent and enduring legend representing the Spirit of the American West. Here, artist Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) celebrates the romanticism of this beast in his detailed study of a white horse over an already complete landscape.
Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902). White Horse and Sunset, 1863. Oil on board. Gift of Carman H. Messmore. 2.62