PAINTING HORSES: George Stubbs, Painting Anatomy

Whistlejacket George Stubbs
National Gallery, Central London

There is a proverb: A horse is an angel without wings. Yes, it is truly said about the horses. If a single animal is to be selected for its service to mankind, it is surely the horse. 

George Stubbs, an English artist had painted the horses excellently. The painting given here is presently displayed at the National Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London.

Whenever I look at the paintings of George Stubbs, I seriously assume that he might have done all of his paintings while sitting on horseback. Such high spirited are his paintings; such energetic is his brush strokes and the colours. He loved horses and he painted them in every shape and size, and his stable never went out of stock. In all the periods of history and civilization, the horse has remained the most useful animal for mankind; may it be peaceful uses in agriculture or fighting in wars. Thus the horse has justified its metaphorical meaning as the symbol of mobility, development, and nobility. 

Self Portrait George Stubbs
enamel on Wedgwood plaque
National Portrait Gallery, London

The Artist: George Stubbs (1724 – 1806) was nicknamed the painter of animals. His paintings of animals, especially of the horses, have made him an artist to be regarded as equal to the great artists like Raynolds and Gainsborough. In earning this status, his knowledge about horses had played a great role. He had acquired the knowledge of anatomy with care and keen observance of the horses around him. 

George Stubbs had applied his knowledge of the anatomy of the horses into his art of painting, and the resultantly we got the masterpieces in the form of his paintings of horses. The eye-catching feature in his paintings is the meticulous rendering of the appearance of the horses in various postures. Apart from painting the marvellous figures of the horses, George Stubbs had written a book with plates: the title of the book is, The Anatomy of the Horses.

George Stubbs Oil on Canvas
Yale Center for British Art, News Heaven, Connecticut 

The Art: George Stubbs painted the horses with the feeling of beauty and grace. He had painted the horses in the style of romanticism paintings, too. The portrayal of the horses attacked by lions was among them. These dramatic paintings were part of his artwork done in following the 'emotionalism' attached with the movement of romanticism. Here in this painting, we see how the artists had captured the action of the moment, a lion attacking a horse.

Symbolic Meaning of Horse in Art: Horses were used for multi-purpose in past. In addition to their use on the battlefield, they were the usual vehicle for transportation. The artists painting the battle scenes or a person of noble descent would paint a horse. In modern time, the use of horses is limited in films and racing. The horse racing would never stop. It's an enduring sport! We hardly see men or women mounted on horses except for a pleasure trip. In prehistoric cave paintings, we can see the paintings of horses among other animals. The Renaissance Artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael had painted horses in their artworks.

Due to the extensive utility of the horse in human life, it has earned a symbolic meaning. The horse is regarded as the symbol of power, nobility and grace. The physical strength of a horse has been the companion of the man during wars and difficult times. There is no other animal that is so natural companion of man as the horse has been. Naturally, the horse has occupied its due and important share in the field of art, too. The paintings and sculptures of horses were common in the ancient and medieval period. Horses were painted in ancient cave paintings; horses are painted in modern art, too.

LEARN PENCIL DRAWING: Lining, Drawing and Shading of a Horse: One of the advantages of using pencils is in its unmatched utility inline drawing. Imaginative use of shading is the second benefit. Shading in pencil drawing is just like putting different tonal values of colours. By selecting a proper colour and applying that colour in different tonal values, a painter animates his or her mental image on paper and canvas. A pencil drawing with creative shading can become a strong base for a masterpiece painting in oil colours when it is enlivened on canvas.

When an artist succeeds in creating a fine balance in line and shading, the pencil drawing piece-of-art becomes a masterpiece. Shading is an aspect that exploits an artist’s skills at the highest possible level. The creative shading of a pencil can produce a picture as artistic as in any other medium like watercolour or oil colour. An artist of imagination and skill can exploit the full tonal values of pencils while doing shading and line drawing in different manners.

John Singleton Copley Oil on Canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

How to Do Shading work of Animal Drawing: Horse: For artists, horses have always remained a favourite subject to paint. In the paintings done by the cavemen, too, we can see the horses and another animal that men have loved and used for their purpose. Here is one painting that was done by the famous painter, John Singleton Copley. The painting is portraying colonel Fitch and his sisters. But the horse ins the prominent figure in this artwork. Horses have been the symbols of strength all the time, its paintings have been the symbol of wealth also. 

Once you have decided to have pencil and paper in your hand, the next thought would be about choosing the subject matter. For this aspect, selection of the subject there is endless opportunities, some of them being just before your eyes, in and around where you are sitting.

So after making out a rough sketch, then start adding the linings. Feel free to add or subtract the amount and thickness of the lining at the hair or at the ears. Take special care to use a more flat side of your pencil while executing the shading parts of the horse, the mouth and nostrils.

If you have some basic ideas about the art of pencil drawing, you can draw the faces of your family members. This is a very safe region to start with! Or you just look at your cat or your dear pet, the puppy sleeping with you. Let us choose a horse, the head of a horse. Okay? We all see horses running and grazing in fields. It would be a lovely object to draw. Before starting to draw the horse’s head, just put some lines defining the size of the head. Care must be taken in drawing the position of the head, whether it is downward or upward. So, just take a set of artist pencils, an eraser and a dozen of drawing paper. Let the horses race on your papers. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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