George Stubbs

A Couple of Foxhounds

1792

Artist
George Stubbs 1724–1806
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1016 x 1270 mm
frame: 1180 x 1440 x 115 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1973
Reference
T01705

Not on display

Summary

A Couple of Foxhounds was probably commissioned by the Reverend Thomas Vyner of north Lincolnshire. Stubbs was known to have worked for the Vyner family on his return to Lincolnshire in 1776 and again in 1792. Vyner was an avid sportsman and equestrian, and an expert on breeding hounds. He was a close friend of Charles Anderson-Pelham, later 1st Baron Yarborough, and the two often hunted together at Brocklesby, the Pelham estate. Stubbs painted Ringwood (collection Earl of Yarborough), a portrait of the leading hound in the Brocklesby pack, the same year he made this picture, and the hounds depicted in this work are probably of the same breeding.

It was Stubbs's practice to paint the foreground animals first, and the background and sky later, painting up to and often over the outline of the figures. His increasingly sophisticated style is apparent if one compares this picture to his earlier depictions of hounds, such as the 1762 Foxhounds in a Landscape (collection Lady Juliet de Chair), in which he posed five dogs in a frieze-like arrangement. Whereas the dogs in the 1762 portrait, equally well-painted, are formally posed, this pair are engaged in almost human interaction.

Further reading:
Judy Egerton, George Stubbs 1724-1806, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery 1984, reprinted 1996, p.143, reproduced in colour

Terry Riggs
December 1997

Display caption

The hound and bitch shown here against an imaginary landscape have been harmoniously balanced to form a deceptively simple composition. Unlike Stubbs’s earlier paintings of foxhounds that tended to be more formally posed, this pair are engaged in almost human interaction.

The picture was probably commissioned by the Reverend Thomas Vyner of Lincolnshire, an avid sportsman and an expert at breeding hounds. The foxhounds were probably bred from the 1st Earl of Yarborough’s famous Brocklesby pack. Stubbs painted a single portrait of Ringwood, the leading hound in the pack, in the same year.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

George Stubbs 1724–1806

T01705 A Couple of Foxhounds 1792

Inscribed ‘Geo:Stubbs pinx it 1792’ b.r.
Canvas, 40 x 50¼ (101.5 x 127.5).
Purchased from Spink & Son Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery and a special government grant 1973.
Coll: ...; ?taken to Australia by a member of the Vyner family; by descent; sold to an Australian dealer, by whom sold T00972 to a London dealer, by whom sold 1972 to Spink’s.
Exh: English Painting, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Spink & Son Ltd, November–December 1972 (18, repr. in colour, as ‘A couple of foxhounds’); Fanfare for Europe: The British Art Market 1973, Christie’s, January 1973 (30).
Lit: Basil Taylor, ‘A Stubbs Discovery’ in Octagon, IX, No.4, Winter 1972, p.5, repr. in colour; The Friends of the Tate Gallery Annual Report 1972–1973, 1973, p.11, repr.

The early history of this picture has not been traced nor has it been possible to trace its original owner or the names of the dogs. There was a picture in the sale of Stubbs’ effects in 1807 (Peter Coxe at 24 Somerset Street, 26–27 May 1807, 1st day, lot 59) described as ‘Portrait of Two Hounds belonging to the late Duke of Richmond, in a small landscape, painted from Nature, at his Grace’s seat at Goodwood, in 1791’, but it is probable though not altogether certain that the reference to a ‘small landscape’ means that the picture itself was small.

The picture is however very close in style and character to the painting of the hound Ringwood, painted for Charles Pelham later 1st Baron Yarborough and also signed and dated 1792 (see Basil Taylor, Stubbs, 1971, p.214, repr. pl.116 in colour). Stubbs also portrayed hounds in a group of mezzotints of 1788 (see Taylor, 1971, p.213,repr. pls.110–12).

The actual type of hound portrayed is uncertain. Though normally referred to as foxhounds, as in the other examples mentioned above, they may be hare-hounds, that is harriers. (The compiler is indebted to Mr Basil Taylor for information and advice in preparing this entry.)

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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