Organized by the Kimbell Art Museum, Stubbs and the Horse is the first major exhibition in 20 years on George Stubbs (1724–1806), the great British painter of animals and outdoor life, and the first ever to focus on the central theme of his art, the horse. A selection of some 40 paintings and 30 drawings and prints will show the remarkable range and variety of Stubbs’s images of the horse, from refined portraits of racehorses to violent scenes of horses attacked by lions in the wild. The monumental painting of the racehorse Whistlejacket, his best known and most widely admired work since its acquisition by the National Gallery in 1997, is the magnificent centerpiece of this exhibition.
A versatile genius whose oeuvre includes paintings, engravings, and detailed anatomical studies, Stubbs was fascinated by horses, and is considered by many to be the greatest painter of horses in the history of art. The foundations of his remarkable career were the equine dissections and studies he made in preparation for his book “The Anatomy of the Horse.” He was an artist-scientist and every inch a man of the Enlightenment, placing a premium on rational enquiry even as the basis of art. In his paintings of horses he combined anatomical knowledge with an aesthetic sense grounded in classical notions of ideal beauty, along with an awareness of recent theories of the Sublime, or awe-inspiring, in Nature. He worked for—and to some degree, with—a number of prominent aristocratic patrons who owned and bred horses. Like most British painters of his time, he strove to reconcile the demands of patronage with aspirations towards high art. His work provides a fascinating insight into the importance of the horse in British 18th-century culture, not only as a necessity of transportation and the basis of aristocratic sports, but also as an object of the literary and pictorial imagination.
Stubbs and the Horse is organized by the Kimbell Art Museum in association with the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, and the National Gallery, London, and is curated by Malcolm Warner, senior curator at the Kimbell. Principal support for this exhibition is provided by JPMorgan Chase. Additional promotional support for this exhibition is provided by American Airlines, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and NBC5.