Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wesley Dennis: Equine Artist

The above painting is one of the earliest and widely-viewed paintings of a Tennessee Walking Horse.  It appeared in 1951 as part the well-known book "Album of Horses" by famous equine writer Marguerite Henry.  The artist was the late Wesley Dennis, who illustrated many of Henry's books.  The painting harkens back to the early roots of the Walking Horse, which was first used by Southern plantation owners to survey their crops.  Here's an excerpt from Henry's book:

"For a hundred years or more the Tennessee walking Horse has been unique in his action and in his services. In early days, when plantations sprawled out to meet sky lines, owners wanted a mount that could easily go forty or fifty miles, day after day. They wanted one with comfortable gaits, with a springiness that would take the jolts for the rider. So, first and foremost, the Walking Horse was a plantation horse; in fact, today he often is called the Plantation Walker.
  Circuit riders used the Walking horse, too. They were the traveling preachers who rode from one little white-spired church to another. Of worldly goods they had none. Their black suits were shiny and threadbare, and sometimes they had no homes at all. But they knew horseflesh as they knew the Bible, and their mounts were the fastest and truest walkers in the countryside.  They had to be! Fifty miles to one church, fifty miles to the next. And between the two the road no more than a cowpath---full of gullies and "thank-you ma'ams" and winding creeks that were rivers in flood time. The circuit horse was a smart one, timing himself to arrive at the little community just when the church bells were pealing. Then he dozed during services, for he had heard the sermon many times before. The preacher, as he rode, would practice his text loud and long. And whether the sermon was hellfire and damnation or green pastures and still waters, always his horse nodded and nodded in approval.
  The country doctor, too, rode forth on a Walking Horse, his saddlebag bulging with blue pills and pink pills and bottles and bandages. On dark nights, on muddy roads, through driving rains or gales of wind---he made his calls. In the sickroom ears listened for the familiar running gait, and at the first sound of the one-two, three-four beat, pain and fear began to lift."

For more info on Wesley Dennis and to view more of his art, click on the link below:

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