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Horses for Courses: Painting Horses in Eighteenth-Century Britain

November 28, 2022 at 4:00pm5:15pm EST

Virtual (See event details)

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The Department of Art and Music Histories is pleased to welcome Dr. Michaela Giebelhausen, The Courtauld Institute of Art (London, UK), as part of AMH’s colloquium series.

Perhaps the most well-known horse painter of the period was George Stubbs. Horses were his main subjects, and his works were sought after. To this day, they grace the walls of many English country houses and public museums. Although Stubbs has earned a firm place among the greats of eighteenth-century British art, his work has remained elusive and enigmatic. For eighteenth-century critics the case of George Stubbs was straightforward; his chosen subject matter made him a ‘horse painter’. In contrast, modern art historians, as Judy Egerton has noted, ‘have had trouble with Stubbs.’ Scholars mostly regard the artist as a quasi-scientific observer of nature, which has gained him the accolade, the British Leonardo.

Professor Giebelhausen will investigate that trouble with Stubbs as a problem of art-historical classification and the privileging of academic discourse. She will consider the aesthetics of the beautiful and the picturesque as presented in the writings of Edmund Burke and William Gilpin. By placing Stubbs’s work firmly in the context of eighteenth-century aesthetic theories, she aims to restore it to its place of origin, the country house and its working landscapes. She will discuss how the emotive and relational aesthetic theories of Burke and Gilpin help us to understand Stubbs’s hunting and racing scenes not simply as visions of nature but of a society that is relational and ordered, instinctive and empathetic, and ultimately political.

Michaela Giebelhausen holds an MA from Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University in Frankfurt, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. She is currently an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her work focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art and architecture. She is the author of Painting the Bible (2006), editor of The Architecture of the Museum (2003), and co-editor, with Tim Barringer, of Writing the Pre-Raphaelites(2009). Her recent work includes the essay ‘Page, Canvas, Wall: Visualising the History of Art’, in Susanna Pettersson (ed), Iconic Works (National Museum, Stockholm 2020). She is on the organising committee of the international two-day conference, The Horse and the Town and Country House: Art, Politics and Mobility, held at Madingley Hall, Cambridge UK, in November 2022.

Image: George Stubbs, Pumpkin with a Stable-Lad, 1774, oil on panel, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection


This event was published on November 2, 2022.

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