Deborah Butterfield American, b. 1949


Butterfield’s art conveys both a deep love for and a respect for these magnificent animals. Born the same day as the 75th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby, Deborah Butterfield has been crafting horses out of scavenged and discarded materials since the 1970’s. At her Montana ranch Butterfield trains, rides and generally bonds with her horses during the summer months. Today there is great demand for her equine sculptures. Sculpting only during the long winter months, Butterfield now may take 3-5 years to complete a work. In her later works, as in our example, Butterfield addresses her sculptures with a more abstract approach. Beginning in 1985 she made a dramatic switch from sticks, mud grass, and wire to bronze for her sculptures, once she discovered what she could do with this metal.


"It was the most fun I ever had. I had all this expressive material that wasn’t long for this world, rotting sticks in piles, and when they were transformed into bronze I could use them. Now I have steel moods and bronze moods."

—Deborah Butterfield


As a horsewoman Butterfield understands the horse. How she constructs the horse, how she places the sculpture in a certain space is evidence of her acute knowledge of this majestic animal. Yet she also understands the materials—what to use, what to manipulate, and what to change-evidence of her accomplishment as a sculptor. Knowledge of the two creates a work that is the true essence of this creature and her art.

Museums and Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago 

Dallas Museum of Art, Texas   

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco   

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City   

Deborah Butterfield at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, Missouri

Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe

Colby College Museum of Art, Maine

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.   

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana

Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, Florida

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Wisconsin

Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York

Palm Springs Desert Museum, California

Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona

Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Corning, New York

San Diego Museum of Art, California   

The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii

University of Kentucky Art Museum

Walker Art Center, Minnesota

Yellowstone Art Museum, Montana

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