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Compare and Contrast: It’s All in the Details

For Grades 4–12

Table of Contents

Background Information for Educators
Activity 1
Activity 2
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum


  • Students will learn about the artists Edgar Degas, Louise Nevelson, and Marino Marini
  • Students will compare and contrast three sculptures of horses
  • Students will compare and contrast three sculptures of horses to a realistic horse


Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917). Study of a Horse, 1880s. Bronze, cast executed between 1919 and 1921 from original wax, 7 5/8 x 10 3/4 x 3 1/8 inches (19.4 x 27.3 x 7.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Bequest of A. Conger Goodyear, 1966.

Edgar Degas, a French painter, sculptor, and printmaker, is known worldwide for his artworks depicting Parisian life—especially the ballet—and for his connection to the Impressionist movement. He experimented with various media and his innovative works influenced many of the leading artists of the twentieth century.

Although the human figure was the most prominent subject in his paintings and sculpture, horses also often showed up as a subject. In his writings and early studies, he revered the horse as a “legendary and powerful creature,” which he strove to depict in his paintings and sculptures. The bronze sculpture, Study of a Horse, was originally a wax study created in the 1880s. The bronze cast was made during 1919–21, after the artist’s death. It is important to note that Edgar Degas would not have wanted this cast, as his wax casts were only meant to be studies.

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine, 1899–1988). Kneeling Horse, 1932–85. Bronze, 9 x 14 x 8 inches (22.9 x 35.6 x 20.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Gift of Diana MacKown, 1990.

Louise Nevelson said, “From earliest childhood, I knew I was going to be an artist. I felt like an artist.” By age nine, she knew she wanted to be a sculptor. She achieved her goal, becoming an internationally known artist. Her best-known works are sculpture that stand against a wall, are made up of wooden boxes filled with various wood fragments, and painted black.

Kneeling Horse, 1932–85 is a bronze sculpture of a semi-abstracted horse. Nevelson’s work during the 1930s was composed largely of small semiabstract figures modeled in clay. In 1931, she went to Munich, Germany, to study with the well-known painter and teacher, Hans Hofmann. It was there she first came in contact with Hofmann’s ideas of balanced composition and with new European art movements.

At a time when there were few successful female artists, and even fewer successful female sculptors, Nevelson felt her work was “feminine . . . delicate: it may look strong, but it is delicate. True strength is delicate. My whole life is in it, and my whole life is feminine.”

Marino Marini

Marino Marini (Italian, 1901–1980). Horse, 1945. Bronze, 8 x 10 x 3 inches (20.3 x 25.4 x 7.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Given in Memory of Northrup R. Knox by Friends and The Seymour H. Knox Foundation, Inc., 1999. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome.

Marino Marini was an Italian sculptor whose work centered around two traditional motifs, the horse-horseman relationship and the archetypal woman. He developed these themes in the 1920s with paintings and drawings, but favored sculpture into the 1930s. From this time, his work was influenced by early Italian art (from what is now Tuscany) and the sculpture of Arturo Martini, a leading Italian sculptor during the World Wars. His artwork continued to morph into increasingly abstract forms throughout the rest of his career. His work is exhibited worldwide and in the Marino Marini museum, located in one of the oldest churches in Florence, Italy.



Show the images of the three horses displayed in the exhibition, Telling Tales, on Slide #10; explain that each sculpture is of a horse. Ask the students to find the parts of the horse: Legs, tail, head, mane, hooves, etc.

For each sculpture, have students find as many differences as they can from the photograph of a real horse on Slide #10.


Show Slide #11. Do a “compare and contrast” exercise with the students. You can make a chart so that each comment a student makes can be addressed while regarding the other sculptures:

Artist                                             E. Degas          L. Nevelson          M. Marini

What is each horse doing?

Compare colors

Compare shapes

Compare shadows

Compare mood

Compare texture

It reminds me of:

I would title this:



  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts) 2, 3
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language 1, 2, 4, 5
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 11 (New York only)
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2, 4
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing 9, 11 (New York only)