Replica engraved in etching and stipple by George Townly Stubbs, published by Messrs. Stubbs, Turf Gallery, Conduit Street, 30th July 1796
A dark bay colt foaled in 1786 Sweet William was bred by William Cornforth of Barforth, near Richmond, Yorkshire, by Syphon out of a Cade mare. He was of a distinguished bloodline, with a pedigree that included Bloody Buttocks and Partner, and went back to Place's White Turk, a famous Arabian stallion imported in the mid-seventeenth century. Stubbs's portrait of Sweet William accentuates the horse's distinguished profile and the full, beautifully arched neck characteristic of the Arabian origins of the thoroughbred horse.
Sweet William was bought by Lord Bolingbroke, for whom he won his first race in 1772 at the New Market Spring Meeting. His success brought him to the attention of Richard, 1st Earl Grosvenor1, a celebrated breeder and racehorse owner, and one of Stubbs's most important patrons, who promptly bought Sweet William, and the horse remained in Lord Grosvenor's ownership thereafter. Under his new colors, he won at Burford and Shrewsbury in that same season and went on to race throughout 1773-6 at Newmarket. His notable successes include winning the Craven Stakes in 1774, the Whip in 1775 and, by default, the Cup in 1776. In all Sweet William was only beaten four times during his racing career, taking a total of 6,705 guineas in winnings. In 1778 Sweet William was retired to stud and stood as a stallion until 1786 at Grosvenor's stud at Oxcroft Farm, near Newmarket. His most notable progeny include Lord Grosvenor's Ceres and Wheatsheaf, the Duke of Queensberry's Sweet William, Mr. Paton's Superb, and Mr. Stanley's Honeysuckle. Grosvenor had a fondness for naming horses after flowers and in his portrait of Sweet William Stubbs includes the eponymous flowers in the foreground, in tribute to his patron's practice.
This is a replica of the original painting, larger than the original, of a portrait painted in 1779 for Richard, 1st Earl Grosvenor. Though it is itself dated 1779, in reference to the earlier portrait, it was in fact painted in circa 1793-4, one of sixteen paintings which Stubbs executed for the Turf Gallery project. Exhibited at the gallery in Conduit Street in circa 1794, at Stubbs's death in 1806 all sixteen paintings were returned to his studio and were sold by his executors the following year.
Print size 18 1/2 x 14x1/2
Framed and Silk Matted: 29 x 25 1/4
About The Artist:
George Stubbs, (born Aug. 24, 1724, Liverpool, Eng.—died July 10, 1806, London), outstanding English animal painter and anatomical draftsman.
The son of a prosperous tanner, Stubbs was briefly apprenticed to a painter but was basically self-taught. His interest in anatomy, revealed at an early age, became one of the driving passions of his life. His earliest surviving works are 18 plates etched for Dr. John Burton’s Essay Towards a Complete New System of Midwifery (1751). In the 1750s Stubbs made an exhaustive analysis of the anatomy of the horse. He rented a farmhouse in a remote Lincolnshire village, where, over a period of 18 months, he undertook the painstaking dissection of innumerable specimens. After moving permanently to London in 1760, Stubbs etched the plates for Anatomy of the Horse (1766), which became a major work of reference for naturalists and artists alike. Stubbs soon established a reputation as the leading painter of portraits of the horse. His masterly depictions of hunters and racehorses brought him innumerable commissions. Perhaps more impressive than the single portraits are his pictures of informal groups of horses, such as Mares and Foals in a Landscape (c. 1760–70).
Stubbs also painted a wide variety of other animals, including the lion, tiger, giraffe, monkey, and rhinoceros, which he was able to observe in private menageries. According to the artist Ozias Humphrey, Stubbs was so convinced of the importance of observation that he visited Italy in 1754 only to reinforce his belief that nature is superior to art. Among Stubbs’s best-known pictures are several depicting a horse being frightened or attacked by a lion (Horse Frightened by a Lion, 1770) in which he emphasizes the wild terror of the former and the predatory power of the latter.
Stubbs’s historical paintings are among the least successful of his works; much more convincing are his scenes of familiar country activities done in the 1770s. Unfortunately, he tended to execute his paintings in thin oil paint, and relatively few survive in undamaged condition. In later life, Stubbs knew considerable hardship. His last years were spent on a final work of anatomical analysis: A Comparative Anatomical Exposition of the Structure of the Human Body, with that of a Tiger and Common Fowl, for which he completed 100 drawings and 18 engravings. The Anatomical Works of George Stubbs was published in 1975.