George Stubbs, RA (Liverpool 1724 – London 1806)
Stubbs’s original picture, signed and dated 1767 was one of a series of three commissioned by George, 4th Viscount Torrington depicting his outdoor servants and workmen on his estate at Southill, in Bedfordshire and now in the Museum of Art in Philadelphia. It was the later Upton version that Stubbs exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1779, just a year before he was elected an Associate Royal Academician. Stubbs was, in general, inspired by rural subjects treated by Gainsborough, Wheatley and Morland. The composition is sharply divided into two halves, contrasting the old-fashioned rural ways of the labourers on the left, and the modern estate, with the new lodge and fencing, in the bright landscape to the right.
Oil painting on oak panel, The Labourers, by George Stubbs RA (Liverpool 1724 – London 1806), signed and dated: Geo. Stubbs pinxit 1779. A park landscape, with an entrance to a lodge in the background and four labourers on the left foreground who appear to be arguing over the tailboard of a horse and cart from which they have just unloaded bricks, near the edge of a wood; one leans on a stick, another lifts the tailboard of the cart, a third stands by doing nothing, while the fourth is about to get up from a sitting position in the cart. At the right a dog is lying in front of a group of four trees. Recent cleaning and conservation work has removed the yellowed varnish to reveal details such as the geese in front of the lodge and the clouds tinged with pink.
Sir Walter Gilbey, 1st Bt (1831–1915), of Elsenham Hall, Essex, by 1898; his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 11 June 1915, lot 386: bought by Agnew; with Knoedler, 1919, from whom acquired by the 2nd Viscount Bearsted (as Captain Walter Samuel), in November 1919, for £500; given with Upton House to the National Trust by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882 – 1948), in 1948, shortly before his death
Upton House, The Bearsted Collection (National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
Geo. Stubbs pinxit 1779 (signed and dated)
Makers and roles
George Stubbs, RA (Liverpool 1724 – London 1806), artist
George Stubbs Exhibition, Neue Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, 2012
Gilbey 1898 Sir Walter Gilbey, Life of George Stubbs, London, 1898, pp.155–6, No.16. Gore 1964 F. St John Gore, Upton House, The Bearsted Collection: Pictures National Trust, 1964, pp.28–29, no.85