Robert Nesham (his adminstrators);
Christies, 23 July 1928, Lot 153 (1,000 Guineas to Ellis and Smith);
Ackermann 1929; Mrs Robert Emmer, Paris;
Mrs St Clair Balfour, Hamilton, Ontario;
John Alistair Campbell, Alberta, Canada, from whom purchased by Mr. Paul Mellon, KBE, 1964 and presented to the Yale Center, for British Art, 1977;
Christies, New York, 1989;
Private Collection, United Kingdom, 2004.
Exhibited R A 1964-65 (264)
Yale 1965 (176)
George Stubbs made his name in the eighteenth century by masterfully understanding of the horse, as exemplified in this remarkable portrait. Stubbs could perhaps be considered the most important sporting artist of all time. He analysed the anatomy, muscle structure and movement of horses in order to create equestrian pictures unlike any other from his time. His extensive travels, including to Italy to study the work of Renaissance Masters contributed to his knowledge. He also had what he called his ‘equine pathological laboratory’, where dead horses were suspended from the ceiling for dissection, for further research. In this striking portrait, the sitter’s pose is a variation of that used in Stubbs’ portrait of William Evelyn from 1770 and in Stubbs’ own self-portrait of 1782. When comparing this portrait with Stubbs’ from 1782 Basil Taylor wrote, ‘The man’s features show such a strong resemblance to the artist’s, while being considerably younger, that one is bound to consider the possibility that the picture may represent his natural son, George Townly Stubbs’. No certain portrait of GT Stubbs is known, so this suggested identification must remain speculative. There is certainly a lack of pretension about the sitter which might suggest if not his own family at least a friend of Stubbs. Stubbs published The Anatomy of the Horse in 1766 which changed the world of equestrian art forever, emphasising the importance of precise anatomical detail in painting. Further to his contributions to academia, Stubbs’s enormous talents got him commissions for a series of classic pictures for great patrons, mainly featuring relaxed friezes of mares and foals, hunters at grass and thoroughbreds out in the paddocks with their jockeys or stable lads.