Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stubbs, George

Molly Longlegs
Oil on canvas
127 x 101.5cm
National Museum of Liverpool, UK

"nature was and is always superior to art" (Stubbs)
George Stubbs (1724 - 1806), born in Liverpool, the son of a currier and leather merchant, was an English painter, best known for his paintings of horses. He often painted horses with their grooms, whom he always painted as individuals. He also painted portrait of dogs, and more exotic animals including lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, and rhinoceroses, which he was able to observe in private menageries. He became preoccupied with the theme of a wild horse threatened by a lion and produced several variations on this theme. He also painted historical pictures, but these are much less well regarded. He remained active into his old age.

"Molly Longlegs" was a bay mare that twice won 200 guinea prizes at Newmarket races. She belonged to Lord Bolingbroke who presumably commissioned this portrait. This picture, with its clear depiction of veins, bones, muscles and distinctive equine bloodpoints is among the best of his single horse portraits. It shows how closely Stubbs's anatomical studies and portraiture were linked.