Whistlejacket | George Stubbs | 1762

Whistlejacket | George Stubbs | 1762

Whistlejacket | George Stubbs | 1762

Stubbs is born in Liverpool in the year 1724 and, when he was 16, he begins to paint portraits and sell them. Since he is 21, besides the painting, he studies anatomy in the York County Hospital. It seems that Stubbs was fascinated by the study of the bodies and their movements.

By the age of 30, he decides to visit Italy to “convince himself that nature is and always was superior to art”, in his own words.

Two years pass by and he comes back to England. In Lincolnshire, he rents a farm and here the story gets strange: Stubbs devotes himself for 18 months to the dissection of dead horses, as an experiment to better understand the animal’s physiology. In fact, he would hang the corpses and put them in different positions to draw them. As a result of this experience, he publishes a book called The anatomy of the horse.

Is because of this book that Stubbs’ drawings are widely recognized. In that time, it was thought that the artist surpassed previous horse portrayers like Seymour, Tillemans and Wootton. And that’s why the Marquess of Rockingham commends Stubbs a painting of his own horse, Whistlejacket.

In the canvas we see the horse standing on its rear legs. The handling of light allows us to see all the animal’s muscles. If, like Stubbs, we pay attention to the physiognomy of the horse, we can see that the front muscles are more relaxed, while the one from the rear quarter are in tension, more rigid than the previous. Regarding the texture, we can almost feel the animal fur, which gives us an impression of being soft, like velvet. At last, one cannot avoid noticing that the painting has no background. Although there are versions that say that the canvas is not finished, there are two reasons to think it is: firstly, because Stubbs already had painted horses without background; and second, if we see the shadows from the rear legs of the horse, we can see that the artist put in the canvas all the details he needed. So, the reason for the flat background is just to highlight the horse, the only motif of the work.

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~ by Álvaro Mazzino on September 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “Whistlejacket | George Stubbs | 1762”

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