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Thursday, 17 March 2005

Art and The Horse: Perfect Conformation

By Richard Carreno
'Stubbs and the Horse,' a retrospective of equine art by one of the premier -- at least, best known -- 18th-century British sporting artists, George Stubbs (1724-1806), opened here 13 March at the The Walters Art Museum as part of three-city exhibition that began in Fort Worth, Texas, and ends this summer in London.
The exhibition focuses on Stubbs's remarkable range, from portraits of famous racehorses to dramactic scenes of mortal combat between wild horses and lions that are all based on meticulous anatomical studies. The show's centrepiece is the monumental 'Whistlejacket,' visiting the United States for the first time thanks to a loan from the National Gallery, London.
Displayed are 40 major paintings, 35 drawings, and three rare copies of Stubbs's The Anatomy of the Horse, a collection of of the artist's anatomical pictures, in one of the largest retrospectives of Stubbs's works since a similar exhibit -- sans the nine-feet tall 'Whistlejacket' -- went on view at the Museum of British Art at Yale University more than decade ago.
In fact, many of the the works at the Walters show are from the Yale collection, collected and donated over the years by Paul Mellon. (Interestingly, the current exhibit has not tapped Stubbs's works that are part of the Mellon collection at the Richmond Museum of Art). Some familiar pieces have also been contributed by the Tate/Britain.
In a significant coup, however, the exhibit, principally curated by the Kimbell Museum of Art, Fort Worth, has snagged some important, but little seen, pictures from the Woolavington Collection, a largely overlooked sporting collection in Northampton, England -- and second only to the Mellon holdings in the United States.
This must-see exhibit runs to 29 May, then moving from Baltimore to London, to the National Gallery. General admission for adults is $10. The Walters Art Museum is downtown, at 600 North Charles Street.