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  • John Armstrong
Battle of the Rocking Horse [study for 'The Battle of Religion']
© DACS 2015

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Battle of the Rocking Horse [study for 'The Battle of Religion'] Dated 1953

Not on display

Symbolism was of great interest to Armstrong, and, in the early 1950s, he began to develop his own symbolist vocabulary. This encompassed many of his views and beliefs - relating to mythology, religion, theatre, architecture and politics. These are visible in his series of large ‘battle’ paintings, such as ‘The Battle of Religion’, for which this is a study. An echo of surrealism is also apparent with Armstrong playing on the incongruity of the rocking horse on the battlefield and the figures blindly waving their wooden swords yet failing to clash. In its subject and composition this work is clearly inspired by Uccello’s ‘Battle of San Romano’ in the National Gallery, London.

Glossary Open


The arrangement of different elements in a work of art.


A literary and artistic movement founded by the poet André Breton in 1924. Many of the associated artists, such as Max Ernst and Jean Arp, had previously been involved with Dadaism. The movement sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. Cultural hierarchies were challenged by the combination of diverse elements in collages and sculptural assemblages. The movement is also notable for the collaborations between artists and writers evident in the Surrealists' many publications.


The representation of subjects or ideas by use of a device or motif to create underlying meaning. A literary and artistic movement that originated in France and spread through much of Europe in the late 19th century. There was no consistent style but rather an appeal to the idea of the artist as mystic or visionary and the desire to express a world beyond superficial appearances.

Composition, Surrealism, Symbolism


  • Acc. No. GMA 3481
  • Medium Tempera on paper laid on board
  • Size 31.50 x 41.20 cm
  • Credit Bequeathed by Miss Elizabeth Watt 1989