'Self portrait', 1782
The label text for this painting in the exhibition 'George Stubbs: A Celebration' has been written by members of the 'Soak Up The Past' WEA group, Liverpool; Anne Brayford, Mary Brown, Barbara Challenor, Alan Chapman and Alan Lever.
"The horse is not in proportion: it has a thick neck but the head is far too small. It seems obvious now that all Stubbs's horse portraits contain that imbalance between the small head as against the excellent anatomy of the body. But against that, we know that horses looked different then, and also, it was a feature of that time that all artists made horses' heads to look smaller than they were in reality.
For a self-portrait, you'd have thought he'd have made his face more prominent. It's very small, like the face of the horse. He's not selling himself, though the way he's looking at you is very direct and approachable. He could be the lord of the manor, or any farmer, or huntsman, rather than an artist. He's not thinking about that aspect of the picture: he's freeing up brain space to concentrate on the firing of the colours.
To us today the picture has a slightly stilted feel. The background is almost like a stage set. It's very close to the horse and rider, something like those old westerns on TV with the painted background for the wagon train."