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Painting, 1762, 29.2×24.6 cm

Description of the artwork «Whistlejacket»

Whistlejacket or "Whistlejacket" — this is a portrait of a beloved British racehorse, created Stubbs in 1762. One of the most recognizable and popular of his works.

Picture made by order of the second Marquis of Rockingham — the owner of the horse, through which he won the 2,000 guineas (about 100 thousand pounds to date) in the race for four miles at York in 1759. Horse, Whistlejacket was born in 1749 and was famous not only for its endurance but also the fact that for all six years of his career and missed only four contests. Cost to reward and to capture on canvas the horse, so giving his master. And the best choice as the artist turned out to be Stubbs.

The portrait is striking in its scale is nearly three-meter work, the horse is depicted in full size. All attention is just on the main character of the canvas. On canvas no rider, no landscape, only neutral, not distracting from the main background. The horse is depicted in a rearing, galloping and racing in the abstract space of the canvas. The artist has given the horse the ultimate freedom: with barely suppressed savagery have no control over the rider or bit. The lack of a bridle and the whip quite match the romantic attitude to horses as a free and rebellious, but nevertheless belonging to the human beings. However, here is a perfect reverence for nature, without unnecessary accents.

Contemporaries loved and appreciated this picture, but was sure that this is an unfinished equestrian portrait of George III. It is believed that actually the way it was, but because of disagreements between the monarch and the customer Stubbs was forced to change the composition. However, the veracity of this story completely to make sure there is no possibility. Experts in the art of animalist claim that the shadow under the hoof Whistlejacket just says the opposite of perfection the author's ideas.

Horse breeding and racing was a real passion of the English aristocracy of the eighteenth century, and the horse was not seen as ordinary Pets, but as full participants. From the artist the more needed the model, as a person with character and its own characteristics. Stubbs didn't just fulfill the requirements, but did what he was inclined all his life and he knew thoroughly not only the anatomy but also the very essence of horses. Character traits are expressed through external Whistlejacket subtle, but important detail: swollen veins on the athletic hip, white spot on the hoof and forehead. These details compare the human signs: birthmarks, scars, shape of eyes. But this is only external, the final image of the strokes, whereas in fact Stubbs is interested in nature and essence.

The disposition of a racehorse is expressed in a tense, like a string of muscle, energy and love of freedom poses. But this is only part of ideas. The important thing is that on the face ("face" in this context is not appropriate word) Whistlejacket easy to read the expression of the maximum stress and horror.

There is a legend, and maybe even a true story like a brilliant and realistic portrait caused a corresponding reaction in the model: the horse pounced on the work of the artist, in the first second thinking it was a real animal.

By the way, Whistlejacket unusual name comes from the name of the cooling drink based on gin and sugar syrup.

Rockingham family kept a pet portrait of their ancestor for over two centuries. In 1997 the national gallery acquired it for 11 million pounds.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva

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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Animalism

Style of art: Romanticism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1762

Size: 29.2×24.6 cm

Artwork in selections: 7 selections

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