The Third Duke of Dorset's Hunter with a Groom and a Dog
George Stubbs (British, Liverpool 1724–1806 London)
Oil on canvas
40 x 49 3/4 in. (101.6 x 126.4 cm)
Bequest of Mrs. Paul Moore, 1980
Not on view
Stubbs's cool and accurate portraits of wild animals, dogs, and most notably horses with their owners, trainers, riders, or stable hands, appealed to and were much sought after by prominent sporting enthusiasts. It may be seen that he was also a gifted landscape painter. Although he received little critical attention from his contemporaries, Stubbs is now regarded as one of the most innovative English artists of the eighteenth century.
This painting of a bay hunting horse was given to John Frederick Sackville (1745–1799), who in 1769 became the third Duke of Dorset, heir to the family fortune and the family seat, Knole, at Sevenoaks, Kent. The third Duke was a courtier, diplomat, and philanderer whose sporting passion was cricket. In a 1778 inventory of his belongings at Knole, the picture is listed as “A Horse and Groom—Stubbs 1768 / a present / [donor's name not recorded]” (Egerton 2007). While the canvas dates to the artist’s mature and most inventive period, Stubbs employed a standard format, somewhat in the manner of James Seymour (ca. 1702–1752), the leading horse painter of the previous generation. Stubbs’s landscape backgrounds vary from the specific to the Romantic; in the present case, Judy Egerton (2007) presumed that the setting is Knole. The thick tree trunk arching over the composition at left and the outsize burdock leaves in the right foreground are typical for this date, while the horse is unusually small in relation to the setting, considering that the picture is in essence an animal portrait. The handling of the sky and the dappled light in the foreground and middle distance contribute to the quality of the picture, the state of which is good for a work by Stubbs.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Geo. Stubbs / pinxit. 1768
John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent (until d. 1799; invs., 1778, 1799); Sackville and Sackville-West family, Knole (1799–1928; invs., 1828, 1865); Charles John Sackville-West, later 4th Baron Sackville, Knole (from 1928); Mr. and Mrs. Paul Moore, New York and Hollow Hill Farm, Convent, New Jersey (until his d. 1959); Mrs. Paul (Fannie H.) Moore, Hollow Hill Farm (1959–d. 1980)
Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Sport and the Horse," April 1–May 15, 1960, no. 29 (lent by Mrs. Paul Moore, Hollow Hill Farm, Convent, New Jersey).
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "George Stubbs, 1724–1806," February 13–April 7, 1985, no. 51.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Essential Stubbs," May 3–June 2, 1985, no. 51.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 19.
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 15.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 6, 2012–January 4, 2013, no. 32.
Beijing. National Museum of China. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 8–May 9, 2013, no. 32.
Basil Taylor. Sport and the Horse. Exh. cat., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond, 1960, p. 34, no. 29, pl. 1, gives a probable date of 1768–72.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1980–1981. New York, 1981, p. 45, ill., notes that John Frederick Sackville succeeded to the dukedom of Dorset in 1769, the year after the picture was painted; supposes that the setting is Knole, the family seat.
Judy Egerton. George Stubbs, 1724–1806. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1984, pp. 80–81, no. 51, ill. (color, overall and detail), notes the 1768 date had not been determined in 1960; proposes that the picture was commissioned by John's uncle, Charles Sackville, who was the 2nd Duke of Dorset at that time; considers that the painting belongs in Stubbs's prime period; admires the handling of the clouds, the light, and portrait of the groom.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 116–18, no. 19, ill. (color) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 68–69, no. 15, ill. (color)].
Judy Egerton. George Stubbs, Painter. New Haven, 2007, pp. 264–65, no. 94, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 88–89, no. 38, ill. (color).
Peter Barnet and Wendy A. Stein inEarth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, ill. pp. 35, 84 (color).
Katharine Baetjer inEarth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, p. 220, no. 32, ill. [Chinese ed., Hefei Shi, 2013, pp. 72–73, no. 32, ill. (color)].