George Stubbs

Leopards at Play

1780, reprinted 1974

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George Stubbs 1724–1806
Etching and engraving on paper
Image: 356 × 467 mm
Purchased 1975

Display caption

This print was based on an oil painting belonging to Earl Fitzwilliam, one of four versions of the subject. Unlike his later, more tonal printmaking methods, the print here has been executed using etching and some engraving. These linear techniques were not quite as successful in capturing the soft coats of the playful animals.

The print was published by Stubbs in 1780 with the title Tygers at Play. ‘Tyger’ was then a generic term to describe any big cat other than a lion, although there was clearly no confusion in Stubbs’s mind between the different species.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T01986 LEOPARDS AT PLAY first published 1780; reprinted 1974–5

Writing-engraving: See T01985 above
Etching and engraving, worked area 13 11/16×18 3/8 (34.8×46.7), plate size 15×19 (38.1×48.2)
Purchased from Miss Beryl Pomeroy (Gytha Trust) 1975
Coll: printed from the original copper-plate (T.1985) by Raymond Thain supervised by Philip McQueen, master printer at Thomas Ross & Son, London, 1974 or 1975
Lit: as for T01985; see also Basil Taylor, The Prints of George Stubbs, 1969, p.24, no.2

Following the discovery of the original copper-plate of ‘Leopards at Play’ in 1970, a limited and final edition was printed at Thomas Ross and Son's in 1974–5 before the acquisition of the plate by the Tate Gallery. The edition comprised 60 impressions in brown-black ink on hand-made paper watermarked ‘J. Green & Co’ and 175 impressions in black ink on hand-made paper from J. Barcham Green with the John Boydell Press watermark dated 1971. In addition, ten impressions out of series were taken for printer and publisher. The edition was published for Observer Art by Iain Bain at the John Boydell Press. T01986 is one of the impressions in black ink.

Only three states of the print are known and these differ merely in the inscriptions: 1. Without any inscription; an example was sold at Sotheby's, 14 January 1971 (52, repr.); 2. With etched or drypoint inscription ‘Painted and Engraved by Geo: Stubbs’ and ‘Publish'd as the Act directs febry. 25, 1780 by Geo: Stubbs London’; an example is in the British Museum; 3. With writing-engraving as it survives on the plate today (see T01985 above). The print described by Taylor as an example of his second state is simply a cut-down impression of the final state, lacking the last line of the writing.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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