George Stubbs (1724 – 1806)

‘Haycarting’ 1795

Enamel on Wedgwood earthenware plaque, 77 x 105cm
Accession Number LL3683

George Stubbs 'Haycarting'

This is one of three enamels which Stubbs executed in the mid-1790s on the theme of haymaking. Although they are repetitions, with slight variations, of subjects which he had painted in oils over a decade previously, they can be seen as the pinnacle of his work in enamel, limpid in colour and masterly in design.

The figures, carefully studied in relation to each other, have a statuesque, arresting quality which elevates them from the type of common rural labourer into the individual heroes of some frieze from antiquity.

These tablets are the largest Josiah Wedgwood ever made. They were so difficult to produce that he made no more after these. It is perhaps because of this that Stubbs waited over ten years after they were made before finally deciding to paint this work.

Besides the rarity of the tablets, the actual creative process was also very complicated. Each of the colours in turn had to be fired on in an enamel kiln to fix it after painting. Different colours mature at different temperatures, so the 'hottest' have to be cooked first, and the 'coolest' (which would be ruined by a higher temperature) last. Stubbs undertook this laborious method because he knew that fired enamel colours would last and not discolour like oil paints.