Probably the most famous horse portrait, by the most famous horse portraitist - Whistlejacket has an interesting tale to tell.
In 1762, the Marquess of Rockingham commissioned George Stubbs to produce a companion painting of King George III, to go alongside a portrait of King George II, both majestically astride their fine stallions.
However, Stubbs produced such a stunning portrait of the horse Whistlejacket, before the king was added on top, that the Marquess realised it would upstage George II if placed alongside.
So... the only thing to do was to keep the new painting as it was - a groundbreaking, simplified portrait of JUST a horse!
If you ask the average person to name a famous horse artist, then George Stubbs would most likely be at the top of the list. Stubbs is admired as 'the master painter of horses', and yet...
Born in the early 1700s, Stubbs began his early work on equine anatomy by severing a horse's jugular vein, suspending it from a ceiling, and then gradually stripped away the various layers of skin and muscles in order to study and illustrate.
This was a period in our history when horses were generally considered 'beasts', to be used and abused without consideration of their welfare.
With veterinary science being largely non-existent, equine welfare was left to farriers, and written advice by the likes of Gervase Markham, who recommended such practices as rubbing a horse's coat with its own blood to make it glossy, and for unresponsive horses, he advised to create sensitive spots on it's sides by perforating and lifting the skin, rubbing in salt!
There were signs of progress too in the eighteenth century, with men such as William Gibson and Henry Bracken writing to denounce the ignorance and abuse promoted by Markham. It was not however, until the very end of the century before the first veterinary college was established.
It is good to reflect on, and be most grateful for, just how far we have progressed to the present day.
For the artist and designer, one of the most intimidating things to work through can be that blank sheet of paper, the empty canvas. It's the making of the first mark, the first thoughts put into 2-dimensional brush strokes or pencil lines.
It's feeling a bit the same way for this first blog entry - my head is full of ideas, themes and points that I want to write about, and I can't rush in and tackle all the subjects at the same time, so how do I start?
When I put the first brush strokes onto a clean white canvas, I make a few marks, then a few more, and very quickly, it all starts to flow - I trust this blog will work in the same way.
I am particularly enthused to write about 18th century equestrian art, it being one of my most favourite topics. However, I will also endeavour to bring in a wide range of art movements, styles and individual artists.
I am privileged to live in a very lovely part of the country, the South Downs, which is full of horses! So I am sure I won't be able to resist sharing something of life in the Downs too.
|Fine Horse Portraits||