|Birth Day:||August 25, 1724|
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Primarily a self-taught artist, he became a portrait painter in the mid 1700s and enriched his work by studying anatomy at York County Hospital. One of his earliest collections of drawings, The Anatomy of the Horse, was based on his independent study of equine corpses.
Thereafter as an artist he was self-taught. He had had a passion for anatomy from his childhood, and in or around 1744, he moved to York, in the North of England, to pursue his ambition to study the subject under experts. In York, from 1745 to 1753, he worked as a portrait painter, and studied human anatomy under the surgeon Charles Atkinson, at York County Hospital, One of his earliest surviving works is a set of illustrations for a textbook on midwifery by John Burton, Essay towards a Complete New System of Midwifery, published in 1751.
In 1754 Stubbs visited Italy. Forty years later he told Ozias Humphry that his motive for going to Italy was, "to convince himself that nature was and is always superior to art whether Greek or Roman, and having renewed this conviction he immediately resolved upon returning home". In 1756 he rented a farmhouse in the village of Horkstow, Lincolnshire, and spent 18 months dissecting horses, assisted by his common-law wife, Mary Spencer. He moved to London in about 1759 and in 1766 published The anatomy of the Horse. The original drawings are now in the collection of the Royal Academy.
Even before his book was published, Stubbs's drawings were seen by leading aristocratic patrons, who recognised that his work was more accurate than that of earlier horse painters such as James Seymour, Peter Tillemans and John Wootton. In 1759 the 3rd Duke of Richmond commissioned three large pictures from him, and his career was soon secure. By 1763 he had produced works for several more dukes and other lords and was able to buy a house in Marylebone, a fashionable part of London, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Two paintings by Stubbs were bought by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London after a public appeal to raise the £1.5 million required. The two paintings, The Kongouro from New Holland and Portrait of a Large Dog were both painted in 1772. Depicting a kangaroo and a dingo respectively, they are the first depictions of Australian animals in Western art.
His most famous work is probably Whistlejacket, a painting of the thoroughbred race horse rising on his hind legs, commissioned by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, which is now in the National Gallery in London. This and two other paintings carried out for Rockingham break with convention in having plain backgrounds. Throughout the 1760s he produced a wide range of individual and group portraits of horses, sometimes accompanied by hounds. He often painted horses with their grooms, whom he always painted as individuals. Meanwhile, he also continued to accept commissions for portraits of people, including some group portraits. From 1761 to 1776 he exhibited at the Society of Artists of Great Britain, but in 1775 he switched his allegiance to the recently founded but already more prestigious Royal Academy of Arts.
Stubbs also painted historical pictures, but these are much less well regarded. From the late 1760s he produced some work on enamel. In the 1770s Josiah Wedgwood developed a new and larger type of enamel panel at Stubbs's request. Stubbs hoped to achieve commercial success with his paintings in enamel, but the venture left him in debt. Also in the 1770s he painted single portraits of dogs for the first time, while also receiving an increasing number of commissions to paint hunts with their packs of hounds. He remained active into his old age. In the 1780s he produced a pastoral series called Haymakers and Reapers, and in the early 1790s he enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales, whom he painted on horseback in 1791. His last project, begun in 1795, was A comparative anatomical exposition of the structure of the human body with that of a tiger and a common fowl, fifteen engravings from which appeared between 1804 and 1806. The project was left unfinished upon Stubbs's death at the age of 81 on 10 July 1806, in London. He was buried in the graveyard of Marylebone Church, now a public garden.
Stubbs remained a secondary figure in British art until the mid-twentieth century. The art historian Basil Taylor and art collector Paul Mellon both championed Stubbs's work. Stubbs's Pumpkin with a Stable-lad was the first painting that Mellon bought in 1936. Basil Taylor was commissioned in 1955 by Pelican Press to write the book Animal Painting in England – From Barlow to Landseer, which included a large segment on Stubbs. In 1959 Mellon and Taylor first met and bonded over their appreciation of Stubbs. This led Mellon to create the Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art (The predecessor of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) with Taylor as the director. Mellon eventually amassed the largest collection of Stubbs paintings in the world which would become a part of his larger collection of British art that would become the Yale Center for British Art. In 1971, Taylor published the seminal catalogue, Stubbs.
The record price for a Stubbs painting was set by the sale at auction of Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, a Stable-Lad, and a Jockey (1765) at Christie's in London in July 2011 for £22.4 million. It was sold by the British Woolavington Collection of sporting art; the buyer was unidentified.
The son of a leather specialist and tradesman, he spent his youth in Liverpool, England. With his common-law wife, Mary Spencer, he raised an artist son named George Townly Stubbs.
Currently, George Stubbs is 298 years, 3 months and 8 days old. George Stubbs will celebrate 299th birthday on a Friday 25th of August 2023. Below we countdown to George Stubbs upcoming birthday.