Enfilade

Exhibition | George Stubbs: ‘All Done from Nature’

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on September 6, 2019

Skeleton of Eclipse (Collection of the Royal Veterinary College, University College London). Eclipse died in 1789 at the age of 25. The Veterinary College was built in 1791, with its first students enrolling in January of 1792.

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Opening next month at MK Gallery:

George Stubbs: ‘All Done from Nature’
MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, 12 October 2019 — 26 January 2020
Mauritshuis, The Hague, 20 February — 1 June 2020

George Stubbs: ‘All done from Nature’ presents the first significant overview of Stubbs’s work in Britain for more than 30 years and brings together 100 paintings, drawings, and publications—from the National Gallery’s Whistlejacket to pieces that have never been seen in public.

Born in Liverpool in 1724, Stubbs was a quintessential product of the Enlightenment and embodied all of its core principles, questioning traditional authority and embracing the notion that humanity could be improved through the application of reason. Rather than trust to history and the untested example of his artistic and scientific precursors, Stubbs championed doing as a way of thinking and deployed pictorial representation as a form of knowledge and understanding. Today, he is recognised as one of the most original artists of the eighteenth century. His wide-ranging subjects included portraits, conversation pieces, and pictures of exotic and domestic animals—horses included—and his obsession with scientific exactitude has drawn comparison with the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

A major theme of the exhibition is anatomy. The show includes Stubbs’s contributions to a pioneering treatise on midwifery and his preliminary work on A Comparative Anatomical Exposition of the Structure of the Human Body with that of a Tiger and a Common Fowl. It also includes the detailed studies and drawings that led to The Anatomy of the Horse—the greatest coming together of art and science in British art—alongside the actual skeleton of the legendary racehorse Eclipse, which Stubbs depicted on several occasions.

A version of the show will tour to the Mauritshuis in The Hague where it will be the first-ever exhibition on the artist in the Netherlands. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with major contributions from Alison Wright, Jenny Uglow, Martin Myrone, Martin Postle, and Nicholas Clee as well as new and existing poetry by Roger Robinson.

Anthony Spira, Martin Postle, and Paul Bonaventura, George Stubbs: ‘all done from Nature’ (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2019), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-1911300687, £35.

More information on the skeleton of Eclipse is available from this article by Mark Brown for The Guardian (6 July 2019).