John Armstrong

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

About this artwork

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.

  • title: Battle of the Rocking Horse [study for 'The Battle of Religion']
  • accession number: GMA 3481
  • artist: John ArmstrongBritish (1893 - 1973)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Wars and Conflicts Religion and occultism
  • date created: Dated 1953
  • measurements: 31.50 x 41.20 cm
  • credit line: Bequeathed by Miss Elizabeth Watt 1989
  • copyright: © The Estate of John Armstrong. All Rights Reserved 2016/ Bridgeman Images
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

John Armstrong

John Armstrong

Despite a brief spell at St John’s Wood School of Art in London, Armstrong was largely self-taught as an artist. Following service during World War I he became friends with the actress Elsa Lanchester who ran a late-night theatre club. This led to his involvement in stage and costume design. As a painter he developed an interest in Surrealism and was a member of the English avant-garde group, Unit One. His painting was subsequently greatly affected by his experiences as an official war artist from 1940-5, both in style and subject. Although Armstrong became increasing disabled by Parkinson’s disease in his later years, he continued to paint and travel. At seventy-three he was elected an Associate member of the Royal Academy.