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George Stubbs and Horse Painting

William Anderson with two Saddle-Horses©

Before the advent of the motor car, gentlemen of fashion could be recognised through the quality of their horses, carriages and grooms. The art of horse breeding, training and stabling developed throughout Europe to a high and ‘international’ standard. Illustrations in the Duke of Newcastle’s Méthode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux, published in 1658, not only showed extraordinary feats of horsemanship but also the Duke’s stables at Welbeck Abbey, which incorporated a much better system of drainage and ventilation than was available to the human population.

What is prized in reality is usually also prized in paint. George IV commissioned paintings of his stables, carriages and horses (nos. 28–30) and acquired Dutch seventeenth-century scenes of the life of the mews (nos. 8–10). George Stubbs (1724–1806) was one of the greatest equestrian artists in history. His paintings owe much to those of his Dutch predecessors, as well as to his revolutionary study of the anatomy of the horse.


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