Stubbs, Walpole and Burke: Convulsive Imitation and ‘Truth Extorted’
Stubbs and Burke: lions, horses and the sublime
Burke knew Stubbs, followed his work, and related news about his progress to his protégé, James Barry, while the latter was in Italy.8 Barry had first extolled the ‘surprising reality’ of Stubbs’s work in 1765,9 remarking to Dr Joseph Sleigh that his aesthetic opinions were largely shared by their common friend Burke, ‘of whose taste and discernment you want no proof’.10 That Stubbs had owned the Enquiry among his library of 1,800 books that went on sale after his death is very likely, as is the possibility that Stubbs and Burke would have met within the closely-knit group of opposition Whigs, who enthusiastically endorsed and patronised the work of both marginal upstarts during the early 1760s. In fact, Lord Rockingham, the leader of the group, both introduced Burke into parliamentary politics as his private secretary and commissioned from Stubbs the first Lion and Horse picture in 1762.11 Insofar as this progressive coterie of landed aristocrats flirted during the radical 1760s with religious dissent, political opposition to ‘court influence’ and innovative experimentation in natural knowledge,12 it offered an ideal platform for creative interaction between such artist-scientists as Stubbs, and such scientific art critics as Burke.
Sympathy, pity and cruelty
Horses and viewers, objects and subjects of the sublime
My fibres tremble, my sinews slack;
I feel his [the horse’s] feelings; how he stands transfix’d!
How all the passions in his mien are mix’d!34
Sensibility and insensibility
From reception to expression
Look there convinc’d – th’ extorted truth confess;
Coda: on religion and the Burkean sublime
A version of this paper was first presented at the conference The Sublime in Crisis? New Perspectives on the Sublime in British Visual Culture 1760–1900 held at Tate Britain in September 2009, organised by the AHRC funded research project ‘The Sublime Object: Nature, Art and Language’.
How to cite
Aris Sarafianos, ‘Stubbs, Walpole and Burke: Convulsive Imitation and ‘Truth Extorted’’, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013, https://www