Built around the iconic horse portrait of Whistlejacket, this exhibition introduces George Stubbs to the European continent and contextualises the horsepainting genre in 18th century Britain. The National Gallery in London has generously allowed to have Whistlejacket, one of its most iconic pieces, to be on loan to het Mauritshuis.
The exhibition design by Koehorst in ‘t Veld recognises the two worlds George Stubbs navigated in his practice. They are embodied by the two main pieces, the painting of Whistlejacket and the skeleton of Eclipse. The iconic masterpiece and the miracle racing horse. Both represent developments that originate in the 18th century but still resonate today. One is the aristocratic innovation of leisure and the other is the methodical approach to anatomy which added knowledge to both medicine and the arts. Stubbs managed to navigate these different circles like no other.
The main room, featuring Whistlejacket, shows the genre of 18th century horse-painting as a means for expressing status. The core of the group consists of paintings owned and commissioned by the Marquess of Rockingham and his peers. The works depict the racing horse as the ultimate expression of wealth and influence. This was the market where George Stubbs’ private fascinations found an eager audience but also points towards the enduring role of the racing horse in British society.
The round room, with the skeleton of Eclipse as focus point, presents the studious approach of Stubbs to the anatomy of the horse. In his early thirties, George Stubbs dissected twelve horses and carefully documented the process in the seminal book The Anatomy of the Horse. Central to the room are the bones of Eclipse, preserved because of his exceptional status as a racing horse. The pieces in the room are quintessential representations of the enlightenment and early scientific approaches to the natural world.
The two rooms are cladded with industrial felt-lined corrugated galvanized steel sheets. In the main room the felt side is facing the room while the galvanized side is shown in the round room. Referencing both a stately interior of the 18th century and an abattoir. The sheets are folded in and out of the existing walls to create recesses that isolate the individual paintings. This affords a concentrated view of the works and creates a heightened sense of perspective and space.