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A Painter Herding his Horses

Reviews

A Painter Herding his Horses

By Dagmar Trodler

Photo: Marietta Maissen

Hestar (‘Horses’) is a rather unusual book, which recently entered Icelandic bookstores. The title-less cover speaks for itself with a collage of drawn horse portraits. Painter and graphic artist Pétur Behrens, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday next year, presents his first illustrated book, Hestar (‘Horses’). According to Pétur, is was created out of the desire to “give [readers] an idea of​ how I work as an artist, in which different forms of one and the same motive can be presented.” The motive, clearly, is the Icelandic horse in its natural environment. With only a few strokes and scarce colors, Pétur manages to create impressive scenes and atmospheres, some of which are more intimate than any photo could ever be.

In an unobtrusive way, he takes the viewer into snowstorms, highlands and herds, makes him identify the faces of horse, feel moods, and sense the incomparable Icelandic light. The book requires a kind of stillness from its reader, in order to be able to “hear” the painter’s pencil, and the enchanting sound of his drawings.

Pétur Behrens. Photo: Karin Gerhartl

On each opposite page, short thoughts on the represented scene as well as on the technique of the painting are presented, designed in a reserved manner, so not to reduce the painting’s effects. Pétur is a true master of his art. The graduate of the Hamburger Kunstakademie has shared almost his whole life with horses. At a young age, the German native traveled to Iceland, by chance ending up as a trainer on a horse farm in the North of Iceland. He got infected by horsemanship, and years later he was known not only for being a thoughtful instructor, but also as the founder of the Icelandic trainer’s association FT and a critical horse journalist. He did not wish for the book to be considered as an oeuvre’s catalog. Rather, it was an attempt to collect old pictures and related memories. Many of his pictures have been sold, of some of them only photographs are left. However, Pétur says, “I wanted to see them all again, or at least the works that were still available, and then present them together, present my ‘herd’.” He is successful in doing so. He opens the gate to the pasture, and the reader will find himself in the middle of his herd. No more words are needed.

Hestar is a book for silent winter evenings, spent on contemplating, remembering, on dreaming. A book that will awe any time it’s opened, because its paintings and drawings carry true magic. High-quality paper, professional printing and the attractive square size make it a perfect gift and a must-have on the art and horse-lover’s bookshelf. Hestar was published by Bókstafur and is available in every bookstore in Iceland. Those living abroad who are interested in buying a copy can contact publisher Sigriður Lára Sigurjónssdóttir: [email protected]. 224 pages, 22cmx22cm, weight: 1 kg.

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