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Creator:
George Stubbs, 1724–1806, British
Title:

Study for the Self-portrait in Enamel

Date:
ca. 1781
Medium:
Graphite on medium, smooth, cream wove paper; squared in graphite for transfer
Dimensions:
12 x 9 1/8 inches (30.5 x 23.2 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Scipio, verso, upper left

Signed in graphite, in the design area on palette: "George Stubbs"

Inscribed in a later hand in pen and brown ink, verso, lower center: "This is the portrait of George Stubbs | the Animal Painter | and his name is to be seen | on the palette. | 5 July 1842; inscribed in a later hand in pen and brown ink, verso, lower left: Capital drawing | by whom?"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B2001.2.1262
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
artist | brush | figure study | man | palette | portrait | self-portrait | study (visual work)
Associated People:
Stubbs, George (1724–1806), painter, engraver, and anatomist
Access:
View by request in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:21333
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This highly finished drawing is a preparatory study, squared up for transfer, for the self-portrait that Stubbs executed in 1781 on a Wedgwood oval plaque (National Portrait Gallery, London), probably for Mrs. Thorold, the wife of his good friend John Thorold of the Inner Temple—so said Ozias Humphry, who remains one of the very few, and far from wholly reliable, sources of biographical information about Stubbs. Although it was for many years identified as a portrait not of Stubbs but of Wedgwood, the final version of the plaque was correctly identified by Basil Taylor in 1965. It conforms to what we know about other preparatory drawings for Stubbs’s Wedgwood plaques. The technique of generating a composition for firing in enamel seems to have required a high degree of artistic decision-making in advance and a good deal of finish even prior to beginning work on the earthenware support. A number of Stubbs’s other squared-up drawings were recorded in the artist’s posthumous 1807 studio sale, but relatively few have been traced.

To commemorate the centenary of the birth of the late Paul Mellon, the Yale Center for British Art recently purchased at auction in London one of a small group of other self-portraits by Stubbs: an exquisite, small oval painting of head and shoulders in oil on copper. This much earlier work serves as a valuable reminder that the oval format, and within it the three-quarter attitude facing the right, were firmly established both in the artist’s view of himself and in the mind-set of other artists, including Ozias Humphry and William Craft, who both portrayed Stubbs in almost identical formats.

Angus Trumble

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, cat. no. 27, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)



Artists in the eighteenth century often made self-portraits to explore and fashion their personal artistic identities. Cat. 149 is on of a pair of self portraits by the little-known historical draftsman James Jefferys and formerly attributed to John Hamilton Mortimer (see cat. 33 [B1993.30.109]). The drawings depict front and back views of the artist, like two sides of a coin, and present contrasting aspects of the artistic life: disaffection and creativity. In the Center's drawing the romantically disheveled Jefferys holds a letter, apparently addressed to his godfather and early patron John Brenchly, which renounces his chosen profession. The inscription from the Juvenal in the lower margin, "Rara avis in terra' meaning, "a rare bird on the earth," alludes to Jeffery’s exceptional gifts and special status as a creative artist. The companion drawing, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London, shows the youthful genius with porte-crayon in hand, momentarily pausing from his labors on a drawing of the Massacre of the Innocents, as if receiving inspiration. At first sight Stubb's self portrait may seem to betray little about its author's personality, but this careful drawing is nonetheless revealing. Made as a study for his self portrait in enamel (National Portrait Gallery, London), the drawing is squared up to facilitate transfer of the image to the larger ceramic plate. The high degree of finish says much about Stubb's meticulous approach to his art, and his legendary powers of observation and extreme reticence are indicated by his composed but watchful expression. In the 1770s Stubbs collaborated successfully with the master-potter Josiah Wedgwood on the production of large enamel plaques. Stubbs evidently found the smoothness and durability of the medium extremely appealing although susceptible to cracking, their coloration remains unchanged over time), and he seems to have used enamel chiefly for his favorite subjects and for portraits of people he knew well. The inscription on the back of the finished self-portrait indicates that Stubbs made it for his friend Richard Thorold. Cat. 150 [B2001.2.1262] is a rare example of a preparatory drawing by Stubbs. His 1808 posthumous studio sale included at least thirteen lots of "drawings, drawing books, studies from Nature, sketches, &c," but with the exception of the major groups of studies for the Anatomy of the Horse and Comparative Anatomy (see cats. 64-8), only a handful of drawings by him are now known. It seems likely that Stubbs would have made careful studies for his paintings, but the mysterious disappearance of the drawings and his notorious secretiveness regarding his artistic practice have made it difficult to reconstruct his working process conclusively.

Gillian Forrester


Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 177, cat. no. 150, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Royal Academy of Arts, 2007-10-20 - 2008-01-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Stubbs & The Horse (National Gallery, London, 2005-06-29 - 2005-09-25) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Stubbs & The Horse (The Walters Art Museum, 2005-03-05 - 2005-05-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Stubbs & The Horse (Kimbell Art Museum, 2004-11-14 - 2005-02-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [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]

English Drawings and Watercolors from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (Yale University Art Gallery, 1965-04-15 - 1965-06-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A loan exhibition of English drawings and watercolours from the collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon of Upperville, Virginia, P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, 1964, cat. no. 6, N5247.M385 L62 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Cassandra Albinson, New Acquisitions, Apollo, v. 165, no. 542, April, 2007, pp. 40-41, fig. 3, N1 A54 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 253-54, no. 27, pl. 27, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Michael Jaffe, Stubbs, a self portrait , Burlington Magazine, vol. 127, no. 983, February, 1985, p. 85, N1 B87 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Lowell Libson Ltd : British Art : 2016, Lowell Libson Ltd., 2016, p. 24, 25, Dealer Cat Lowell Libson 2016 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850, collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, v. 1: p.174, no. 332, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, no. 27, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA) [YCBA]

Basil Taylor, Stubbs, Phaidon, London, 1975, frontpiece, NJ18 St915 T39 1975 (YCBA) + [YCBA]

Yale University Art Gallery, English drawings and watercolors, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, April 15 - June 20, 1965 , New Haven, 1965, cat. no. 6, NC228 Y34 (YCBA) [YCBA]


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