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George Stubbs

England`s finest painter of horses

He  born in Dale St, Liverpool.  He was best known for his paintings of horses, but also painted portraits.   He was the son of a prosperous currier (leather worker) who lived at one time in Ormaond St, Liverpool and was briefly apprenticed to a Lancashire painter and engraver named Hamlet Winstanley, but  left as he objected to the work of copying.    In the 1740s he worked as a portrait painter in the North of England and from about 1745 to 1751 he studied human anatomy at York County Hospital. He had had a passion for anatomy from his childhood, and one of his earliest surviving works is a set of illustrations for a textbook on midwifery which was published in 1751  His first love was anatomy and his precise dissections were recorded in detail. His "Anatomy of the Horse" was published in 1776 and gave him the reputation as the finest equine painter of his time. This knowledge was then translated into his artwork which remains unrivaled even today

In 1755 Stubbs visited Italy. Later in the 1750s he rented a farmhouse in Lincolnshire and spent 18 months dissecting horses. He moved to London in about 1759 and in 1766 published The anatomy of the Horse and the original drawings are in the collection of the Royal Academy.

In 1759 the 3rd Duke of Richmond commissioned three large pictures from him and by 1763 he had produced works for several more dukes and other lords and was able to buy a house in Marylebone, a fashionable part of London, where he lived for the rest of his life.

His most famous work is probably Whistlejacket, a painting of a prancing horse commissioned by the 3rd Marquess of Rockingham, which is now in the National Gallery in London. This and two other paintings carried out for Rockingham break with convention in having plain backgrounds. Throughout the 1760s he produced a wide range of individual and group portraits of horses, sometimes accompanied by hounds. He often painted horses with their grooms, whom he always painted as individuals. Meanwhile he continued to accept commissions for portraits of people, including some group portraits. From 1761 to 1776 he exhibited at the Society of Artists.

In the 1770s Josiah Wedgwood developed a type of enamel panel at Stubb's request. In the 1770s he painted portraits of single dogs and hunts with their packs of hounds for the first time, while also receiving an increasing number of commissions to paint hunts with their packs of hounds. He remained active into his old age. In the 1780s he produced a pastoral series called “Haymakers” and “Reapers”, and in the early 1790s he enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales, whom he painted on horseback in 1791.   His earliest surviving works are 18 plates etched for Dr. John Burton's Essay “Towards a Complete New System of Midwifery” (1751)

Stubbs's historical paintings are among the least successful of his works; much more convincing are his scenes of familiar country activities done in the 1770s.  In later life Stubbs knew considerable hardship. His last years were spent on a final work of anatomical analysis: A Comparative Anatomical Exposition of the Structure of the Human Body, with that of a Tiger and Common Fowl, for which he completed 100 drawings and 18 engravings. The Anatomical Works of George Stubbs was published in 1975.

Together, the Walker Art Gallery and Lady Lever Art Gallery hold the largest public collection of Stubbs's paintings in the British Isles.