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'Thomas Smith Senior and Thomas Smith Junior of the Brocklesby Hunt, with the hound Wonder', about 1766

Painting with two riders in red jackets on horses with a dog

© Tate Britain, London 2006

Visitors to the exhibition 'George Stubbs: A Celebration' were invited to enter a competition to write the label text for this painting.

The winning label text, shown here, was displayed in the exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery for the final month, from 1 to 30 July 2006.

Competition winner

The winning label text is written by The Countess of Derby, Knowsley, Merseyside.

"This painting for me is about the relationship between man and his master, as well as man and his dog. The hound, ‘Wonder’, has a look of respect for his huntmaster, eager to please him. The son looks backwards to his father, showing deference to his father’s skill and knowledge of the hunt.

The horses look like the riders; the son’s horse is younger and fitter and Thomas Senior’s horse looks wise and honest. Both riders sit well back with their feet forward as if they are comfortable jumping huge hedges and ditches.

I imagine the master of the Brocklesby Hunt commissioned this painting to record two long lives of service to the hunt and to the estate".

Highly commended

Andy Allen, website entry:

"This shows the heritage of hunting; the handing down of names and occupations through generations and the lineage of hounds stretching back through the Studbook. The hunters are patient before the excitement of the chase, their riders showing the old-fashioned hunting seat which can still be seen today. The horses' coats gleam with good health and they look as though they would give an excellent ride across country. Both are steady with hounds, as would be expected, keeping an eye on Wonder. I particularly like the portrayal of the 'golden thread' linking Wonder to the huntsman. It ties the composition together, man and animal with a common purpose. The long shadows tell us the sun is low, but the tree is in full leaf - autumn hunting, perhaps?"

Linda Cloët, Chester:

"This painting is intriguing - is it after the hunt or before? The clues are at odds with each other - the horses look tired but rested - no sweaty flanks are evident here!

The hound looks alert and eager as if he has already scented something. Thomas Smith Senior looks disgruntled, perhaps they have lost the fox or he isn't in the mood for hunting that day!

This is a gentle painting of muted colours (apart from the red coats). It lacks the vibrancy of most of Stubbs's work. There is a dreamlike quality about the landscape and once the horsemen do decide to move you would expect them to gallop off in slow motion."

Matthew Scully, Liverpool :

"The depiction of the two Smith men out together on an early morning hunt suggests that they are a close father and son team. However, the attitude that Stubbs gives each man hints that there may be more distance between them than it would first seem.

If we look at Thomas Junior we can see that he is much more assertive than his father. He is headed enthusiastically for the woodland and turns back to shout encouragement to his father. Thomas Senior doesn't seem to hear. He is wrapped in his own thoughts and appears reluctant to follow his son. It's almost as if he is here against his will.

The painting says something about the ageing process. The older, more passive Smith is drawn along by his more active son. The fact that the background behind Thomas Junior is green and lush and the background behind Thomas Senior is empty and barren is no coincidence. Thomas Senior will soon relinquish his lands to his son, perhaps he knows this and this is what he is so pensive about."

Further information about this painting

  • Painted by George Stubbs (1724 - 1806)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 77 x 100.5 cm

This painting is from a private collection.