Stubbs and the Wild

The current exhibition at Bath’s Holborne museum is another brilliant exhibition on an artist who has been much underrated as he specialised in animal paintings, often in dramatic though not too realistic landscapes. He is probably known now – if at all – for his horse pictures.

The great thing about the Holborne is they do brilliant audio guides. None of this art historian pretentiousness, but really original, informative stuff from a wide range of professionals who give a real insight into the art. They had a vet talking of how anatomically correct the drawings are, and that they are still used for teaching purposes.

We had a carriage driver who described what was happening in his depiction of Phaethon driving his father’s sun chariot across the heavens. The young man is straining at the reins, so clearly inexperienced and not in  control of the horses, so is accurate. But the horses are incredibly detailed, but should be moving as a team instead of all out of step with one biting the other. I suspect he was showing off his ability to do different poses for the horses.

stubbs horse

There is a fine depiction of a young male moose in a mountainous landscape, and a few lions; this one shows the male in the distance, so making it unclear that he is much larger than the female, but perhaps Stubbs was making some kind of statement here. With this image, we get an account from wildlife photographer and broadcaster Philip King, who,like all the others, adds a lot of detail to the images.

stubbs lions

This one is a strange scene, described by a dressage rider; he talks of how the horse’s centre is largely on its back legs, as in a performing horse, but the positioning of the lion does not seem to suggest it is the cause of the animal’s fear, so again, whilst the animals are realistic, it seems the scenes are instructive rather than realistic.

Another  fascinating, enlightening show from the Holburne.

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