James Stanley

WAG 8294


This portrait of a prosperous-looking townsman is Stubbs’s earliest securely-dated painting. Liverpool’s greatest native artist is known as a painter of animals but began his career as a portraitist. According to his biographer, Humphry, Stubbs commenced work as a painter in 1741 and worked in Liverpool, Wigan, Leeds and York before he settled in London in 1760. This painting is one of only three produced in those two decades that can be authoritatively attributed to him. The sitter is James Stanley aged 33, third son of Thomas Stanley of Cross Hall in Lathom, related distantly to the Earl of Derby. The date of the portrait tallies with Stubbs's final sojourn in Liverpool from 1755 until 1756. Technically, the work varies in quality. Greatest attention has been lavished on the face, in contrast to the coat which has been painted with less highly wrought brushwork. Given the extremely high quality of the face painting, this suggests rapid execution rather than any lack of ability. Unpretentious in scale and pose, the work is just what might be expected of a commission given by a man of middling means to a provincial portraitist from this period.