From the beginning of his artistic career, Jón Stefánsson painted horses. Among his very earliest surviving oils is Horse at a Shop Doorway (1917; LÍ-1606). Jón's horse paintings from the period 1924–35 are, along with his landscapes, part of his visual definition of “the nature of the Icelander” which was much discussed by scholars and artists in the inter-war years. There was much discussion of the qualities which enabled Icelanders to survive the weather, sea ice and volcanic eruptions on this island for centuries. There was talk of the “acquired” sturdiness of Icelanders, their perseverance, adaptability and steadfastness. Jón's horse paintings in this period are all metaphors for these qualities, each in its own way.
In the 1940s there is a change in Jón's art towards a more Expressionistic and romantic contemplation, manifested amongst other things in a brighter colour palette and freer methods. We see these changes in his horse paintings as well: from about 1942 his horses are as a rule no longer depicted as strong “individuals,” but as an integral part of a larger natural context. The Green Pasture is an excellent example of this. Here we see a classic three-fold division of the picture plane into foreground, middleground and background. Here, however, there is no mountain towering over the scene, and instead the motifs are dispersed relatively evenly, horses and men forming small, finely drawn clusters which interact within the piece.