Whistlejacket by George Stubbs



Title

Whistlejacket

Artist

George Stubbs

Ref GL397
Type Fine Art Print
Limited Editions This Limited Edition Gouttelette Print on paper is published with light-fast inks to BS1006 standard onto acid-free, calcium carbonate-buffered stock, mould-made from 100% cotton and sourced from environmentally-conscious paper suppliers. Limited Edition Size: 50
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Description  
Whistlejacket is an oil-on-canvas painting from about 1762 showing the Marquess of Rockingham's racehorse, rearing up against a blank background. The huge original canvas, which is 292cm × 246cm (115 in × 97 in), the lack of other features and Stubbs' attention to the minute details of the horse's appearance give the portrait a powerful physical presence. A chestnut (or sorrel) stallion, with lighter mane and tail, Whistlejacket was foaled in 1749 at the stud of Sir William Middleton, 3rd Baronet at Belsay Castle in Northumberland, and named after a contemporary cold remedy containing gin and treacle. He famously won a four-mile race at York in August 1759 against a strong field, beating Brutus by a length, and then retired to stud. He was beaten only four times in his racing career, but was notoriously temperamental and difficult to manage. Stubbs depicts him rising to a levade and pays intimate attention to the features of Whistlejacket's body. Minute blemishes, veins and the muscles flexing just below the surface of the skin are all visible and reproduced with almost photographic accuracy. Despite the isolation of the subject from natural surroundings Stubbs manages to create a living animal. Rockingham paid 60 guineas for the portrait. Contemporary opinion was that the painting was unfinished. There is little evidence for this view: Stubbs produced other paintings of horses against blank backgrounds for Rockingham, nothing in the painting indicates that it is not complete, and the detail of the shadows cast by Whistlejacket's rear legs on the ground suggest that this is how Stubbs intended the picture to be seen; the absence of background details intensifies the sense of power that the horse projects as it rears and twists its head.