George Stubbs (1724–1806) is much more than a horse painter, as a discerning few knew in his lifetime, and as history has confirmed:
Thy pencil, Stubbs, no rival need to fear;
Not mimic art, but life itself is here
wrote his contemporary Horace Walpole; and Sacheverell Sitwell helped the modern revival by writing in 1936 that Stubbs had ‘the genius of creating’ and was ‘Nature herself’.
Today Stubbs is revered as a leading figure of the English Enlightenment, an artist who worked with a consciously scientific, analytical method and detachment. He is the subject of scholarly research and regular exhibitions (Stubbs and the Horse is at the National Gallery, 29 June to 25 September) and yet