Eighteenth Century
History of Horse Art

Horse Art Eighteenth Century painting by George Stubbs.

Logo for Horse Art in the Eighteenth Century. A demand for horses in  art arose in the 18th century along with horse racing and fox hunting

History of Horse Art Areas and Times:

Art Bio of Sculptor Patricia Crane
Horse Artist: Four Decades of Horse Art by Patricia Crane

History of Horse Art Main Page
Ancient Civilizations
Early Oriental Horse
Medieval Times
Baroque Age
Nineteenth Century

 Illustrations of 18th Century Horse Art:

Pieter Tillemans art (1684-1734) Going Hunting
John Wootton art (1682-1764)
James Seymour(1702 -1752)
Horse Art of George Stubbs (1724-1806)
Stubbs portrait of the horse Whistlejacket
Horse Anatomy - George Stubbs
Sawrey Gilpin (1733-1807)
Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849)

In the Eighteenth Century in England, horses in artwork flourished. Having begun in the 17th century, the 18th saw the formation of a school animal and sporting art. This was also the century in which the Thoroughbred was perfected as a breed.

After England's break with the Roman Church, church patronage of the arts halted but artists did not stop creating art work. The subjects artists pursued were portraits of the wealthy, royalty included, and the things these patrons owned, like estate houses, pets and horses. In the 1700's and the early Eighteenth Century, artists began to paint the wealthy or their possessions, one of which was their horses.

The sports of horse racing and fox hunting created a demand that artists scrambled to fill. Patrons were looking for accurate portraits of their prized horses. John Wootton (late 1600's to mid 1700's), James Seymour (1702-1752) were two painters who were quick to follow the new trend.

In many ways Seymour’s art epitomizes the style of English sporting horse painting of the period. In a few of Seymour’s compositional works it is possible to see in rather primitive form, echoes of the earlier perspective devices of Uccello ( see the Renaissance page).

Wootton was popular as a painter of racehorses and was probably the first distinguished equine artist, or sporting artist ;his subject matter included the early Newmarket course. Newmarket was the scene of many horse portraits throughout the century and was the headquarter of the Jockey Club. Painting often for George II and the Prince of Wales, he was also closely associated with the Royal Academy, being a founding member.

However the most outstanding painter of the new genre of horse art was George Stubbs (1724-1806), whose lovely depictions are still very highly valued today in both museums and private collections.

George Stubbs certainly knew the anatomy of a horse, from life, from dissection and from dedication. His book of anatomy compiled in the course of eight years of study and drawing was finally published in 1766 was the first book dealing with equine anatomy since 1598. These anatomical drawings are still a valued resource for artists today.

The number of paintings produced by this artist is large, and he owned the talent to paint large scale also. His talent and his knowledge of horses even allowed the successful and successfully received painting of horses without backgrounds, which allowed the entire focus to be on the horse. These compositions are very balanced, with horses in very natural postures, like a frieze of horses across the canvas. The generosity of George Stubbs and his sharing of knowledge, gave a vitality to the horse artworks of his century that has continued to make of him and his work a model for the artists of today.  His graceful, anatomically correct and powerful portraits of individual horses captured the personality and uniqueness of each animal.

In the Eighteenth century, the depiction of horses flourished, yet it was also considered second class art since horses were seen as humble objects rather than elevated objects. Horse-artists were referred to as animal painters and their talents were not fully recognized.

George Garrard, John Boultbee and Abraham Cooper painted in a manner that tried to follow Stubbs, but they certainly could not match his level of talent. The closest was perhaps the lesser known Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849), who although Swiss studied under the French master Jacques-Louis David. Agasse produced many works in England in the late 18th century and his works portrayed a certain charm and “feel” of the horse.

Thomas Gooch in the mid to late 18th century painted the popular carriage horses, wearing very stylish harness, for various patrons wanting such work.

Sawrey Gilpin (1733-1807) whose father and brother were both amateur artists, liked to paint large scale and introduced a romantic aspect , using dramatic light and shadow, which was supremely captured in the next century by the work of Gericault.

Thomas Rowandson(1756-1827) , by choice more of a drawer than painter, loved drawing horses and along with more serious works also produced caricatures depicting the antics of riders and horses, as did Henry Bunbury.  Rowlandson produced many works depicting the varied type of carriages on the roads of England and Europe during this period and into the 19th century which was to see an incredible improvement in carriages, along with the better road surfaces, and the popularity of the Cleveland Bay horse.

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© All Photos and Sculpture Copyright 2000 - 2017, Patricia Crane.