<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

IIIF Actions
George Stubbs, 1724–1806

Labourers [1779, Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhibition catalogue]

Enamel on Wedgwood biscuit earthenware
27 1/2 x 36 inches (69.9 x 91.4 cm)

Signed and dated, lower right: "Geo: Stubbs pinxit 1781."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
architecture | cart | costume | country house | dog (animal) | genre subject | horse (animal) | labourer | oval | rural | tree | wheel | worker
Associated Places:
Bedfordshire | England | Europe | United Kingdom
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

In Labourers, George Stubbs depicts a team of brickmakers in the midst of a dispute about the backboard of their cart. This enamel is the third in a group of works based on the same composition. The first was an oil painting made in 1767 for George Byng, fourth Viscount Torrington, as part of a series depicting servants at his estate in Bedfordshire. The master potter Josiah Wedgewood was deeply impressed by the second version, also painted in oils, which he saw in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1779; the experience led Wedgwood to commission portraits of himself and his wife, Sarah, from Stubbs, rather than from Joseph Wright of Derby. For large-scale enamels such as Labourers and Reapers, Stubbs used ceramic plaques developed by Wedgwood especially for the purpose, and he came to prefer these over the copper sheets he had used for earlier enamels such as Lion and Lioness.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

By the mid-1760s Stubbs had achieved fame for his sporting paintings and the publication of The Anatomy of the Horse, but by the end of the decade he was diversifying his technique and began experimenting with painting in enamel. His early enamels were on small copper sheets (see Lion and Lioness nearby) but Stubbs soon aspired to create larger enamels. He worked closely with Josiah Wedgwood who developed the large ceramic tablets on which Stubbs could paint. Labourers represents brickmakers on the estate of Viscount Torrington at Southill, arguing about how to fix the tailgate of their cart. There are three versions of this subject: an oil on canvas, an oil on panel, and this enamel. The original oil-on-canvas version of the subject so appealed to Wedgwood that he commissioned the enamel version for himself.

Gallery label for Connections (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-05-26 - 2011-09-11)
Stubbs worked closely with the famous master potter Josiah Wedgwood to develop ceramic tablets on which to paint in enamel. Here the design is based on an earlier oil painting showing servants of George, Viscount Torrington laying bricks on his estate, Southill in Bedfordshire. The building to the right is a new lodge presumably built by these same men. According to the artist’s early biographer Ozias Humphry, he had been watching them at work for some time when they fell into a dispute about the right way of replacing the tailboard on the cart, and this was the moment he chose to depict. The painting was bought from Stubbs by Wedgwood and remained in the Wedgwood family until bought at auction by Paul Mellon in 1978.

Malcolm Warner

Warner, Malcolm and John Baskett. The Paul Mellon Bequest: Treasures of a Lifetime. New Haven : Yale Center for British Art, 2001, p. 106

Connections (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-05-26 - 2011-09-11) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Paul Mellon Bequest : Treasures of a Lifetime (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-02-17 - 2001-04-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

George Stubbs in the Collection of Paul Mellon: a Memorial Exhibition (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2000-02-14 - 2000-05-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

George Stubbs in the Collection of Paul Mellon: a Memorial Exhibition (Yale Center for British Art, 1999-04-30 - 1999-09-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

George Stubbs (1724-1806) Tate Gallery (Yale Center for British Art, 1985-02-13 - 1985-04-07) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

George Stubbs (1724-1806) Tate Gallery (Tate Britain, 1984-10-17 - 1985-01-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Henry Birch, Labourers : Print after George Stubbs, Country Life, 153, March 15, 1973, p. 724, S3 C68 (YCBA) oversize [YCBA]

Robin Blake, George Stubbs and the wide creation, animals, people and places in the life of George Stubbs, 1724-1806 , Chatto & Windus, London : Chatto & Windus, 2005, 2005, p. 168, pl. 24, NJ18.St915 B53 2005 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Frederick Boyle, Memoirs of Thomas Dodd, William Upcott, and George Stubbs : R.A., David Marples & Co., Ltd., Liverpool, 1879, pp. 29-30, CT776 B68 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christie's Sales Catalogue: June 23, 1978, Christie's, June 23, 1978, p. 107, lot 147, Sales Catalogues (YCBA)

Malcolm Cormack, Anatomy of a Painter, The Yale Literary Magazine, v. 148, New Haven, Connecticut, 1979, pp. 57-59, 63, V1889 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, George Stubbs in the collection of Paul Mellon, a memorial exhibition , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., 1999, pp. 12, 54, 82, no. 64, NJ18 St915 G54 1999 (YCBA) Copy 2 is on Mellopn Shelf [YCBA]

Richard Dorment, British painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art : From the Seventeenth Through the Nineteenth Century, , Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, 1986, pp. 385-386, fig. 108-1, ND466 P47 1968 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Judy Egerton, 'So Good with the Humbler Persons' : Stubbs as Portraitist, Burlington Magazine, vol. 149, October 2007, p. 674, N1 B87 (LC) + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Judy Egerton, George Stubbs, 1724-1806, [exhibition] Tate Gallery. , Tate Publishing, London, 1984, pp. 76-77, no. 48, NJ18 St915 E43 (YCBA) + [YCBA]

Judy Egerton, George Stubbs, painter, catalogue raisonne , Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., London, 2007, pp. 69, 418, 448-449, no. 230, NJ18 St915 A12 E44 2007 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Robert Fountain, William Wildman and George Stubbs, no. 44, The British Sporting Art Trust, Newmarket, Suffolk, 2004, p. 9, N8250 571 44 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Walter Gilbey, Life of George Stubbs, R.A., Vinton, London, 1898, p. 47, NJ18 St915 G55 (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Joseph Mayer, Early Exhibitions of Art in Liverpool, With Some Notes for a Memoir of George Stubbs , Liverpool, 1876, pp. 120-121, N5056 L5 E27 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Morphet, Encounters : New Art from Old, National Gallery Company, London, 2000, p. 327, fig. 2, N6490 +M6775 2000 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Venetia Morrison, The art of George Stubbs, Wellfleet Press, Seacaucus, N.J., 1989, pp. 130-131, 164, NJ18 St915 M67 1989+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

National Portrait Gallery, Wedgwood Portraits and the American Revolution, Washington, 1976, p. 24, NK4210 W4 N38 1976 (Oversized) (YCBA) [YCBA]

Constance-Anne Parker, Mr. Stubbs, the Horse Painter, J. A. Allen, London, 1971, p. 117, NJ18 St915 +P37 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, At home to sporting art : the Brick House, Essays of Friends of British Sporting Art, no. 33, The British Sporting Art Trust, Summer 1997, p. 4, N8250 .B751 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Francis Russell, Lord Torrington and Stubbs, Burlington Magazine, 122, April 1980, p. 250 (footnote), N1 B87 (YCBA) oversize [YCBA]

Allen Stanley, British Painting from Hogarth to Alma-Tadema, Apollo, vol. 100, July 1974, pp. 34-39 (footnote), N1 A54 (YCBA) serials oversize [YCBA]

Bruce Tattersall, A Sleeping Leopard by George Stubbs, Burlington Magazine, Vol. 118, No.885, December 1976, p. 843, N1 B87 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Bruce Tattersall, Stubbs & Wedgwood, unique alliance between artist and potter , Tate Publishing, [London] Paris :Distributed by Idea Books, 1974, pp. 11, 14, 23, 54-55, no. 11, NJ18 St915 T37 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Basil Taylor, Farming as Stubbs Saw it, Country Life, 154, June 28, 1973, pp. 1858-1860, S3 C68 (YCBA) oversize [YCBA]

Basil Taylor, George Stubbs : 'The Lion and the Horse' Theme, Burlington Magazine, vol. 107, February 1965, p. 81, N1 B87 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Basil Taylor, Josiah Wedgwood and George Stubbs, Proceedings of the Wedgwood Society, London, 1961, p. 223, Sporting 2223 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Warner, Stubbs & the Horse, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2004, p. 62, fig. 63, NJ18 St915 W37 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Warner, The Paul Mellon Bequest : treasures of a lifetime, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 106, N5247 M385 P28 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Whitechapel Art Gallery, George Stubbs, 1724-1806., Catalogue of an exhibition of paintings, drawings and engravings held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, from 27th February--7th April, 1957. , London, 1957, p. 21, NJ18 St915 T36 1957 (YCBA) [YCBA]

If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.