Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Helen DE Cruz on White Horse of Uffington


This is entry #22 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.

Philosopher: Helen De Cruz (University of Oxford)

Artwork: White Horse of Uffington (probably late Bronze age, 1300-600 BCE). Chalk figure, land art, length: 105m, turf cut away to expose underlying chalk, Uffington, West Oxfordshire.

Words: The symbolic meaning of this chalk hill figure is lost to us. We don’t even know if it really represents a horse. Over a period of 3000 years, local inhabitants have been cleaning and weeding the horse at least every 5 years – Romans, Anglosaxons, medieval Christians, Victorians. Without regular maintenance the chalk lines would have long disappeared.  In spite of its loss of meaning, the sense of awe for this large artifact may have contributed to its consistent management over millennia. It’s also a living artwork as its outlines have been altered over time. 


  1. “Taint what a horse looks like, it’s what a horse be”. — Terry Pratchett

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