United Kingdom • 1724−1806
George Stubbs (George Stubbs; August 25, 1724, Liverpool - July 10, 1806, London) - one of the famous English painters, animal painter, graphic artist, naturalist. Best known for his images of horses.

Features of the artist George Stubbs: Stubbs was distinguished by bright independence of character and painting. His animalistic works are not just observations of an amateur, but full-fledged scientific research and amazing anatomical accuracy. He wrote and painted many animals that he met in his travels and in private English menageries. But the greatest popularity was given to him by his horse "portraits", popular among the English aristocracy and at the same time despised by academic artists.

Famous Paintings by George Stubbs: "A lion attacking a horse", "Kangaroo from New Holland", "Mares and foals, frightened by the approaching thunderstorm", Whistle Jacket.

George Stubbs: between slaughterhouse and easel

The greatest "horse" master was born in Liverpool in the family of a tanner, whose business was quite profitable. Stubbs Sr. and the rest of the family had no doubts about the future profession of a boy who, at the age of 10, had already learned how to sketch animals. Later he realized that the animals are his elements, but not from the point of view from which the father looks at them. For his drawing of the horse, he won first place in the local artistic community.

Yet until his 17 years, George Stubbs was forced to work in a leather workshop, and the death of his father was the pretext for the new life. Despite the loss, this event gave the youth freedom, and he immediately entered the apprentice to the artist Hamlet Uinstenli in Lancashire. It was not just a dream come true, but rare luck. The teacher had access to the collection of paintings by old masters, who in those years were rarely publicly exhibited. Stubbs could shape his skills and artistic taste under the influence of genuine works of art.

However, learning from Winstanley was short-lived. Stubbs left him and returned home, where he stayed for four years, explaining this by the need to study nature and anatomy. Why the young artist left his teacher is not reliably known, but Winstanley himself later said that the young man did not want to engage in copying, but wanted to immediately start hard work, which was not at all part of the master's plans. It turns out that Stubbs was practically self-taught.

Anatomical dissection as art

For several years, Stubbs lived in the north of England and worked as a portrait painter, but portraits of this period could not be found. From about 1745 to 1751, he studied the human anatomy at a hospital in York under the guidance of doctor Charles Atkinson. He even managed to carry out several autopsies on his own, which attracted the attention of the obstetrician, who was engaged in writing an important study, “The newest obstetric aid system”. Stubbs created a series of illustrations for him.

In 1754, he visited Italy, as it was supposed to any beginning artist. The purpose of the trip was to get acquainted with the masters of the Renaissance, but at the same time he did not miss the chance to make acquaintances with his contemporaries - collectors and buyers of paintings. They were always in Rome in abundance. Later he himself said that on this trip he was once again convinced that "Nature is and has always been above art". A lion attacking a horse is Stubbs' favorite story, with whom he most likely met precisely in Rome, in the Conservative Palace. There is a more interesting, but less realistic version: as if traveling in Africa, he saw this dramatic spectacle to his eyes.

Four years later, one of the most important periods in the artist's life begins. He rents a farm in Lincolnshire, where he hounds horses.

Stubbs bought dead horses at a local slaughterhouse, hung them up in his workshop, and conducted autopsies on his own, studying and sketching every stage of the work and all parts of the corpse: musculature, connective tissue, skeleton. Witnesses said that these operations were terrible: he pumped blood from the corpse, and then filled it with fat, in order to keep the form. Using belts and pulleys, he gave the body the desired posture and painted. These sketches, created over a period of sixteen months, formed the basis of his book, Anatomy of a Horse, published by him. The glory of Stubbs as a scientist began precisely here.

In all Stubbs' endeavors, his civil wife Mary Spencer supported him. Unfortunately, there is little that can be said about this woman. It is known that she most likely was the daughter of the sea captain and was a distant relative of her husband. They had two children - a son George, who later became a famous engraver, and a daughter, Mary, who died as a baby.

After already living in London, the animal owners are noticed by horse owners and the owners of the stables. They order him portraits of their horses, genre scenes, and sometimes portraits of riders, where the character of the horse is paid attention to as a full-fledged hero of the picture. Customers confidently recognized him even as a better artist than James Seymourand John Wootton. His clients were not just equestrian sports enthusiasts, but truly notable and influential people of the time, such as Joseph Banks, a member of the Cook expedition to the Pacific.

Plots and motifs of works by George Stubbs

Stubbs loved horses, he drew them and dissected them, studied them and had income from their favorite work. Mares and foals - often repeated plot in his works. Often he portrayed them against the background of trees and water surface, which made the silhouette of animals more expressive. But, as a great animal painter, he had in his arsenal a supply of equally interesting not at all “horse” plots.

Stubbs paid attention to various exotic animals, including lions, leopards, zebras, monkeys and rhinos. He observed them in his travels, some he had the opportunity to see in private London menageries. He was the pioneer of the kangaroo for the British public, writing his portrait, having at his disposal only eyewitness accounts and the skin of a dead animal.

It has a special attraction self portrait on White Hunter- oval enamel image, where the author sits astride a hunting horse.

Historical themes also fascinated Stubbs, but did not play an important role in his work.

The real demand for Stubbs' works was easily combined with the negative perception of official art criticism. Animal painter and recognized artist - these were incompatible concepts. “Horse art” (and such a term really exists - “Equestrian art”) was perceived three centuries ago as “low” art, going somewhere behind portraits, landscapes, genre and historical themes. Nevertheless, Stubbs became a great artist in his own direction.

From glory to oblivion

The period of the 1760s is the flowering of the art of Stubbs. He creates a variety of horse portraits, depicting them as separatelyso and with riders. He exhibited many of his works in the Society of Artists of Great Britain, where he later became a member of the board. One of his achievements in this position was the opportunity for members of the public to open a corpse. This allowed artists to study anatomy not in theory, but in practice.

The popularity of Stubbs grew, but because he finally moved to live in London, to be in close proximity to the center of creative life. His workshop impressed with its size - it was easy to start a horse.

In 1775, Stubbs turned his attention to the newly opened, but already recognized, Royal Academy of Arts. Becoming a member of the Academy, he did not become her loyal friend because of disagreements, and more precisely, the academic reluctance to provide a graduate picture. In the end, as a result of a failed exhibition of enamels and a scandal that broke out, the animal painter was excluded from there. In general, he placed great hopes on the enamel, as well as on the creation of decorative painted plates, but, unfortunately, the idea was not the best. In fact, he left a lot of debt. Interestingly, the entire path of the artist is a constant doubt, he was never sure of the correctness of the chosen direction. Nevertheless, the sharp negative of the official artistic elite provoked in him a feeling of protest and provoked to insist on it.

The work of Stubbs became known and popular not only because of the demand for his portraits among the sports aristocracy, but also due to such a method of replication as engraving, which he himself carried out. Stubbs was equally strong in the performance of both large and small orders.

Disrespect of artists to their colleagues writing animals is an unpleasant, but commonplace routine, which touched not only Stubbs. The last years of his life proved to be a test for him, he spent them in oblivion and deprivation. Isabella Saltonstall, an admirer of his work, who bought up his paintings, giving him a sum much more than the real, did not allow him to be completely left without a livelihood. Nevertheless, he continued to do the most attractive thing for him - anatomy. His last scientific work is works on comparative anatomy, where he compared human and animal skeletons.

George Stubbs died July 10, 1806 from a heart attack.

Contemporary value of paintings by George Stubbs

Stubbs' horses are not the pinnacle of realism in the understanding of the modern viewer. His equestrian images may seem a bit strange, naive, or even theatrical, but such is the art of the 18th century. Contemporaries appreciated such portraits, not without reason found in them the individuality, able to convey the character and characteristics of a particular animal. Incredible dedication, a truly scientific approach and perseverance made Stubbs a kind of help, a beacon for all followers of animal painting.

Stubbornness, courage, and sometimes the audacity of Stubbs' decisions and actions led him to fame and they also contributed to his oblivion. However, today the artist's work costs very good money. Moreover, many canvases were lost due to the technical features of his painting - a very thin layer of oil paint.

Pictures of the “horse” author for the modern connoisseur are not only good taste and interest in horses, but also a profitable investment. Works are really expensive.

For example, in 2010, Mares with Foals on the River Bank, Stubbs, which had never entered the market before, were sold at Sotheby's for £ 15.9 million.

The record price for Stubb's Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, a Stable-Lad, and a Jockey was set at Christie's in London in July 2011. Gimcrack is the name of one of the most popular and beloved by many 18th century racehorses. She became the third of the most valuable paintings of old masters, ever sold at this auction. Price paintings - 22.4 million pounds. The seller was representatives of Woolavington - one of the best collections of sports art in the world. But the buyer wished to remain anonymous.

Works of Stubbs can be found in the best museum collections in England: the London National Gallery, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the National Museum of Liverpool, the Tate Gallery, the Hunter Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and not only.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva
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