George Stubbs (1724–1806): A Celebration, an exhibition of approximately twenty paintings by the celebrated artist, came in early 2007 to The Frick Collection, its only North American venue. The exhibition marked the bicentenary of Stubbs's death by presenting some of his greatest contributions to the tradition of British eighteenth-century painting, all notable for their originality and beauty. Furthermore, while Stubbs's work is represented in many American collections, the exhibition at the Frick exclusively drew upon British-owned examples, some of which have never crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and thus offered an important viewing opportunity in this country. The exhibition tour began in the spring of 2006 in the artist's native Liverpool at the Walker Art Gallery, and continued fall and winter of 2007 at Tate Britain, London, the city where Stubbs enjoyed his success as a painter, concluding at the Frick.
Stubbs (1724–1806) is renowned for the precise and noble treatment of animals in a style ordinarily reserved for the human figure, and he spent many years studying and documenting the anatomy of horses, dogs, and wild animals. His understanding of the physical structure of these animals provided him with the exceptional ability to convey accurately their beauty, strength, and dignity. Stubbs's attention to nature, paired with an innate sense of design, balance, and restraint, enabled him to create lyrical and graceful representations that are unparalleled by other animal painters. The Frick showing will devote much attention to animal paintings and will also feature quintessential English landscape and genre scenes, representing nearly the full range of work in oil that Stubbs produced over the course of his career.
Important paintings were drawn from the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Tate Britain, London. Many seldom-seen works from private English collections were included in the exhibition. Some, such as the Walker's magisterial portrait of the thoroughbred racehorse Molly Longlegs, were newly conserved for the exhibition. A revelatory presentation, George Stubbs emphasized the artist's innovations in subject and made a compelling case for understanding him as one of the most gifted oil painters of his generation. A related publication is authored by Alex Kidson, Curator of British Art at the Walker Art Gallery. Presentation of George Stubbs (1724–1806): A Celebration in New York was coordinated by the Frick's Chief Curator Colin B. Bailey and Associate Curator Denise Allen.