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George Stubbs - The man, the horse, the obsession

20 February - 30 August 2020
This spring, we present an exhibition at the Mauritshuis about England’s most celebrated horse painter George Stubbs. Extraordinary highlight of the exhibition is the enormous portrait of the racehorse Whistlejacket. This is the first time that this masterpiece from The National Gallery in London has travelled to mainland Europe. The exhibition also shows the skeleton of Eclipse, the most famous racehorse of all time, and the portrait of Eclipse painted by Stubbs.

George Stubbs -mini lectures from home

Lea van der Vinde, curator of the exhibition George Stubbs – The Man, The Horse, The Obsession discusses the finest paintings in the exhibition from home.

Watch the entire series about George Stubbs - The man, the horse, the obsession.

The man: George Stubbs

George Stubbs, Lord Torringtons jachtpersoneel vertrekt vanuit Southill, Bedfordshire. c.1767. The Bute Collection, Mount Stuart

While George Stubbs is virtually unknown here, in England he belongs, without any doubt, in the panthenon of eminent eighteenth-century British artists like Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and J.M.W. Turner.

In our exhibition we’re focussing on a significant period in Stubbs’ career: the 1750s and 1760s. His acquaintance with the portrait painter Joshua Reynolds had put him in touch with eminent patrons. During this period, Stubbs quickly developed to become the leading horse painter in his country. The horse was a status symbol and wealthy owners wanted portraits of their swiftest and finest animals on their walls.

Read more about George Stubbs, the man behind the horse paintings.

The horse

Although Stubbs also painted people and numerous other animal species, it was with his portraits of horses that he established his distinctive position as an artist. What made Stubbs’s portraits of horses unique was his ability to express the character of the animal as well as portray its physical presence. The portrait of the thoroughbred Blank is an exceptionally lively example.

Read more about the horses painted by George Stubbs.

George Stubbs, Blank, de bruine hengst van de Duke of Ancaster, begeleid door Old Parnam. c.1761. The Trustees of the Grimsthorpe & Drummond Castle Trust Limited

George Stubbs, Whistlejacket, National Gallery.

George Stubbs, Whistlejacket, c.1762, National Gallery, London


The life-sized portrait of Whistlejacket will also be on view in the exhibition. The painting, which today forms part of the collection of The National Gallery in London, is the best-loved work in Stubbs’ oeuvre and has only been exhibited outside of the United Kingdom once before.


While Whistlejacket owes his fame to Stubbs’s talent as a painter, the legendary reputation of the racehorse Eclipse was entirely due to his own qualities. Eclipse was the most famous and most successful racehorse of the eighteenth century. It is not only the portrait of Eclipse that appears in the exhibition; Eclipse himself has made the crossing to the Netherlands – or at least his skeleton has.

The obsession

Stubbs drawing front

George Stubbs, two studies. c.1756-1758. Royal Academy of Arts, London

Stubbs drawing back

George Stubbs knew like no other how to capture both the physical attributes of a horse and its character. An in-depth study of the horse’s anatomy, for which the artist dissected the animals himself, laid the foundations for his success.

In 1766 Stubbs published The Anatomy of the Horse, a pioneering book with detailed illustrations that brought the artist international acclaim: it became the standard work on equine anatomy.

Besides 13 paintings, the exhibition also presents 10 anatomical drawings by George Stubbs.

Read more about Stubbs' obsession.


The oeuvre of George Stubbs relates to important seventeenth century artworks in the Mauritshuis. While visiting the exhibition, compare Stubbs work to paintings such as Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, the life-sized Bull by Paulus Potter and the work of the horse painter Philips Wouwerman. It reveals how European painting, partly under the influence of the Enlightenment, developed in the eighteenth century.

Collaboration with the MK Gallery

The exhibition is being jointly organised with the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes (United Kingdom), where the exhibition George Stubbs: ‘all done from Nature’ is on view from 11 October 2019 until 26 January 2020. That exhibition will provide an overview of Stubbs’ entire oeuvre, while the Mauritshuis is focusing on Stubbs at the peak of his career.

De stier - Paulus Potter - Mauritshuis

Paulus Potter, The bull, 1647

Made possible by

The exhibition is made possible in part by the Friends of the Mauritshuis, Nationale-Nederlanden, part of NN Group and the Dutch Masters Foundation.

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