Horse Team, 1919 by Edvard Munch

In Horse Team, an agricultural subject is rendered with the emphasis on the animals; the human element is reduced to a mannequin-like form giving distant guidance behind the steadily pacing plough-horses. The rich autumnal colours, and the rapid brush-strokes running in broad swathes towards the viewer, radiate a sensuous, almost tangible record of a specific occasion, however archetypal the activity. It is a mellow yet energetic painting, unlike the flurried depiction of equine panic in Galloping Horse of 1912, on which the composition of this work is based. The contrasting colours of the horses is a familiar Munchian motif, as is the way they seem to pull away from each other; both effects produce a necessary tension in the composition. But, instead of the anxiety present in the 1912 work, the sense of mutual control is predominant here, as man works in harmony with the seasons. The nature of rural manual labour is the real subject of this genre, while the creation of the murals in the Freia Chocolate Factory a few years later would enable Munch to consider the nature of factory-based labour.