Despite, the shared theme of horses, the three works in question all represent different approaches to the painting of a singular theme. The first image, Rosa Bonheur”s The Horse Fair (1853) is realist in style, Franz Marc”s The Large Blue Horses (1911) is expressionist, whereas the unknown author(s) of the Lascaux Horses (15,000-10,000) can be considered to be a work of abstract art. In Bonheur, the attempt to portray the horses in a natural and realistic manner gives the work its realist tendencies. For example, the horses are depicted in an everyday country scene, accompanied by peasants.
Furthermore, the colors of the work are quotidian. The expressionism of Marc is shown, above all, in the striking blue color of the horses, suggesting a form of symbolism. The fantastic background in which the horses are contained further emphasizes the author”s intent to express a particular meaning or perception of the animals. The cave paintings may be considered abstract since they attempt to place the animals in an unconventional context: the horses are not trying to be directly represented, but rather are given an almost religious and spiritual meaning. The head-on confrontation of the two horses in the image suggest this type of abstract meaning, as opposed to a realist style.
The Marc and Lascaux works in this sense have the closest resemblance: they play with the limits of representation and instead attempt to show something symbolic and even mythical to the work. This contrasts with Bonheur”s faithful realist reproduction of the animals. At the same time, however, all the artists find a clear inspiration in the human”s immediate surroundings and environment.
This ties into the notion of content: for Bonheur, content is something that should not be experimented with, rather content is a reproduction of the surrounding world. For Marc and Lascaux, in contrast, content can go beyond these boundaries. This means that these artists think of content having a deeper meaning and that such meanings are all around us in the natural phenomena of our world.
Hence, these different approaches to the same subject matter demonstrate that the artist can take different strategies in terms of form and content. The content of the work determines the theme, whereas the form in these works organically grows with the theme, showing them in their unity in order to achieve the intended meaning of the work.