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Petrov-Vodkin's artwork entitled “Bathing the Red Horse” stands out among his other paintings, at least in that everyone knew it in Soviet times. And this is in the era of the unconditional triumph of socialist realism!
This picture is impressive in its scope and brightness of colors. The color choice is built around the contrast of red and blue. The flattening of forms, typical of symbolism, is also noticeable, along with the filling of most of the canvas with the same tone.
The process of bathing a horse is a common situation for the Russian life of that time, and therefore a fairly common plot in the painting of that time. Russia is often associated with a horse, its history is enough to recall Gogol’s notorious “bird-three” or A. Blok’s “steppe mare”.
The crimson horse in this picture is understood by the viewer in the same way - as an allegory with Russia, escaping from the hands of a young rider, barely able to cope with the reins. It is worth adding that the color of the horse is by no means a reference to the Bolsheviks who won in 1917.
In fact, this color is a symbol of aggression and danger. In addition, “red” is the archaic form of the word “beautiful”. The fact is that the artist often used technique and color solutions in painting, characteristic of Russian icon painting.
The plot, color and compositional center of the picture is certainly a horse. It is so huge that it is not even visible in full growth, it just does not fit on the canvas as a whole. It literally radiates power. The fiery red, blood red horse in this picture makes it completely unrealistic. It is as if he consciously allows the rider to hold onto himself. His pupil, directed towards the viewer, creates an unusual feeling that the animal is thinking about something inconceivably important, as if it knows something very significant, but we, the people, are not able to hear it.
A young guy without clothes, sitting on horseback, emphasizes the color of the horse even more and barely restrains his free impulse. This waywardness of the animal is reinforced by concentric circles on the background of its hoof, while the rest of the body of water is in a state of calm.
On the canvas there are two more horses - orange and white - also with riders, but it is red that is painted extremely clearly and in detail, while the rider’s face is shown quite schematically. There is nothing to say about coastal space: curved along an inconceivable arc, it is more like an abstraction.