“from the sweet and fluffy to the majestically terrifying”

Stubbs and the Wild, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street Bath, until 2nd October 2016

George Stubbs Horse Frightened by a Lion 1770 Oil on canvas 100.1 x 126.1 cm National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery

George Stubbs
Horse Frightened by a Lion
1770
Oil on canvas
100.1 x 126.1 cm
National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery

The Holburne is fortunate enough to have its own painting by George Stubbs (1724-1806) a landscape portrait of the The Rev. Robert Carter Thelwall and his Family who are depicted with their horses.  This painting serves as the introduction to the exhibition which focuses on Stubbs as painter of animals.

Work on paper ‘Finished study for ‘Anatomy of the Horse: 10th anatomical table’ George Stubbs 1756-58 Pencil on laid paper 35.5 x 19.5 cm © Royal Academy of Arts, London

Work on paper
‘Finished study for ‘Anatomy of the Horse: 10th anatomical table’
George Stubbs
1756-58
Pencil on laid paper
35.5 x 19.5 cm
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

Through drawings, paintings and prints it takes us into the wild side of Stubbs and eloquently reminds us of his genius. Even as a young man in Liverpool he was interested in dissecting animals to discover their inner workings.  It was only when he went to York that he studied and taught anatomy, including human bodies for a short while.  In 1754 he moved to an isolated farm in North Lincolnshire and spend some eighteen months dissecting horses and revealing their inner secrets layer by layer. It was at this juncture that he decided to give up painting portraits and to focus on horses and other animals, such as the new ones that were being brought in from the colonies. I would suggest that it really was a true vocation for Stubbs.

George Stubbs The Moose 1770 Oil on canvas 61 x 70.5 cm © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, 2016

George Stubbs
The Moose
1770
Oil on canvas
61 x 70.5 cm
© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, 2016

While the pictures were often meant to be scientific studies of the creatures, Stubbs imbues them with a portrait-like quality but in some works he also depicts the natural behaviour of the animals, especially in the studies of horse and lions.  I had always rather shied away from this as a subject but found myself so drawn in by the artist’s skill that I have to say he rather converted me. I was also fascinated by the exquisite works he executed on large ceramic plaques – no mean feat at that time.

George Stubbs A Lion and Lioness 1778 Enamel on Wedgwood ceramic 43.1 x 61.6 cm The Daniel Katz Gallery, London

George Stubbs
A Lion and Lioness
1778
Enamel on Wedgwood ceramic
43.1 x 61.6 cm
The Daniel Katz Gallery, London

I certainly look forward to re-visiting the exhibition and have no hesitation in urging you to go and visit this exhilarating show which as its curator Amina Wright suggests presents “the artist as an indefatigable explorer of the natural world and a bold technical innovator. It will also introduce some of the animal celebrities of eighteenth-century England, from the sweet and fluffy to the majestically terrifying.”

George Stubbs ‘Marmaduke Tunstall’s Mouse Lemur’ 1773 Pencil on paper 19.8 x 30.8 cm © Trustees of the British Museum

George Stubbs
‘Marmaduke Tunstall’s Mouse Lemur’
1773
Pencil on paper
19.8 x 30.8 cm
© Trustees of the British Museum

What more can one want!

 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a free audio guide featuring responses to Stubbs’s work by animal experts and artists.
Principal Sponsor Lowell Libson Ltd
Exhibition Supported by
The Friends of the Holburne, Bath Spa University
George Stubbs Tygers at Play before 1776 Oil on canvas 101.5 x 127 cm On loan from Private Collection, Hong Kong

George Stubbs
Tygers at Play
before 1776
Oil on canvas
101.5 x 127 cm
On loan from Private Collection, Hong Kong

http://www.holburne.org

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