George Stubbs: 'All Done from Nature' presents the first significant overview of Stubbs's work in Britain for more than 10 years and brings together 100 paintings, drawings and publications, from the National Gallery's Whistlejacket to pieces that have never been seen in public. The book accompanies an exhibition organised by MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, which will be shown at MK Gallery and the Mauritshuis in The Hague. George Stubbs: 'All Done from Nature' includes new writing on Stubbs with major essays by Jenny Uglow, Martin Myrone, Martin Postle and Nicholas Clee as well as new and existing poetry by Roger Robinson.
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, Stubbs 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 who Stubbs depicted on several occasions.
Dr Martin Postle is Deputy Director for Grants and Publications at the Paul Mellon Centre and was previously Senior Curator at Tate Gallery. Martin's research focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury British Art and he has published widely on this subject.