George Stubbs (1724 – 1806)
Enamel on Wedgwood biscuit earthenware plaque, 77 x 105cm
Accession Number LL3682
This painting and 'Haycarting', also at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, were originally from a trio of Wedgwood plaques by Stubbs. The final plaque, 'Reapers' is now in the Paul Mellon Center at Yale.
Stubbs revisited this pastoral theme several times, having originally painted 'Haymakers' as a pair with 'Reapers' in 1783. Both of these canvases are now in the Bearsted Collection, Upton House, National Trust. Two years later he complicated the design to produce the paintings now in the Tate Britain collection. During 1794-5 he reworked the theme in an oval format for the three Wedgwood plaques.
The rural peasant subject matter was extremely fashionable with collectors throughout Europe in the last quarter of the 18th century. Marie Antionette and her ladies played milkmaid at Versailles, Goya included rural sports in tapestry designs for the Spanish crown and Gainsborough painted narratives of peasants at cottage doors. Stubbs's approach was less romantic, portraying a rather matter of fact, albeit reasonably prosperous, farming group at work.