The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse) (c. 1896) by Albert Pinkham Ryder

The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse) - Albert Pinkham Ryder - 1900

Artwork Information

TitleThe Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)
ArtistAlbert Pinkham Ryder
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions27 3/4 x 35 1/8 in. (70.5 x 89.2 cm)
Art MovementSymbolism
Current LocationCleveland Museum of Art (CMA), Cleveland, OH, US

About The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)

“The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)” is a symbolic painting by Albert Pinkham Ryder, created in 1900. This artwork, executed in oil on canvas, is associated with the Symbolism art movement and measures 27 3/4 by 35 1/8 inches (70.5 x 89.2 cm). The artwork is held within the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) in Cleveland, Ohio, United States.

The artwork presents a somber, ethereal scene where the central figure is a skeleton mounted on a horse, interpreted as the allegorical figure of Death from the Christian biblical book of Revelation, riding a pale horse. The composition invokes themes of mortality and the inevitable approach of death. Despite its subject, the scene is not depicted as one of chaos or violence; rather, it evokes a quiet and inexorable movement forward.

Foregrounded against a dusky, cloud-touched sky and a darkened landscape, the spectral rider appears to be in motion, yet the scene also conveys a sense of stillness and solemnity. The horse and rider are shown in a profile view as they traverse the curved paths of the racetrack, which are rendered in a restrained color palette that further envelops the scene in a dreamlike quality.

The painted surface itself may show the texture and brushwork characteristic of Ryder’s method, where he often built up layers of paint to create a rich, tactile quality. These formal elements—color, composition, and texture—work in concert to endow the artwork with its symbolic and evocative power, inviting viewers to contemplate the metaphysical implications inherent within the scene.

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