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'Newmarket Heath with a Rubbing-Down House', about 1765

Painting showing heath land with two stables and blue sky

© 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 Neil Bryan from Cwm Penmachno, North Wales:

"I love this little painting because it is so simple, yet it connects me with the land and sky of the fens.

The plants and rough grass in the foreground seem to have been painted with real care and love, even though this is just a study for other paintings.

As a lad brought up in East Anglia I respond strongly to the flat horizon and open sky. Even the brickwork in the rubbing-down house has commanded close attention.

A painting doesn’t need to have a central subject if it is done with love."

Highly commended

Judith Done, Waverton, Cheshire:

"I looked at this picture before reading about it and thought that it looked like a setting for something about to happen, which indeed it is. The rubbing down house and even the buildings further away are oddly contemporary and the house itself tells us about a process of which most people are unaware, even racegoers. The diminishing size of the buildings from left to right draws the eye across the landscape and reinforces the prairie-like flatness and expanse of sky which I recognise from visits to the Newmarket area. The more I look at this picture, the more interesting it becomes. I really like the sense of anticipation."

Rita Harraghy, Wavertree, Liverpool:

"This is a painting which doesn't attract your attention at first sight. When you pause and look more closely, the detail is surprising. You can feel the emptiness of the ground, yet there is also a softness to its surface. You feel, know, that you have to watch out for pot-holes and pools of water. I like the open country and peacefulness of the painting."

Clare Whittington-Egan, Liverpool:

"This little painting draws me to look closer because the starkness and great sense of space, heightened by the receding perspective of the buildings, seems so rare for its time, almost modern in concept. It reminds me of the Maritimes of Canada but without the vibrancy of colour seen there. To have that sort of imaginative vision in his period shows Subbs in a different light - no people, no trees or crags, no glossy sheened horses. It has an atmosphere all its own and a vision of its own which have a particular attraction despite the somewhat overcast feeling created in the foreground. The brighter sky and tiny landscape details on the horizon are a further invitation to look more closely."

Further information about this painting

  • Painted by George Stubbs (1724 - 1806)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 30 x 42 cm

This painting is from the collections of Tate Britain, London|. Purchased 1979.