Form 2’s War Horse
Inspired by a 15th century painting and the National Gallery’s art programme for schools, Form 2 have created a beautiful sculpture of a horse which sits proudly at the entrance to St Benedict’s.
Paolo Uccello’s painting of The Battle of San Romano was the National Gallery’s chosen painting for their Take One Picture programme for primary schools, in which children across the UK submit art work in response to a particular painting.
Classes in Form 2 (Year 6) at St Benedict’s were introduced to Uccello’s work in their art lessons last term, and discussed the painting’s themes, structure and various elements, as well as its historical context. It was the horseman leading the Florentine army - Niccolò da Tolentino – who stood out for the children, perhaps because they had been reading Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse as part of their Second World War topic. And so the conversation revolved around horses.
As part of their initial research the children studied a timeline of Horses in Art History, which included cave paintings, Uccello's St George and the Dragon and George Stubbs’ Whistlejacket, with The Kelpies providing the starting point for looking at sculptures of horses.
The children drew Uccello's horses to practise proportion and positions frozen in time, and made armatures - frameworks around which sculptures are built - using paper straws and tape, to make small models.
For the creation of their horse sculpture, the children worked in groups to prepare the materials: they cut aluminium wire to size; used hammers on aluminium plates to create texture; used hole punches and thin steel wire to put the plates together and then added these on a basic outline and armature of a horse’s head. Step by step their sculpture took shape and every other class visiting the art room was amazed by the size and the progress of work. It was the talk of the school!
The children wanted to name their sculpture ‘War Horse’ and asked if they could paint it. This led to a discussion about the colour and patina of sculpture, followed by exciting science experiments using heat to change the colour of the aluminium plates. The favourite technique by far was burning sugar onto aluminium to tarnish it - possibly because of the delicious molten toffee smell! So it was that the sculpture was burnished by the school’s Maintenance team using a butane blow torch.
Finally, Form 2’s work of art was installed near the entrance of the school for all to see. Many questions followed: was it a chess piece? A horse of Troy? If you ask the children, they will say it is Niccolò's horse - a war horse.