National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Captain Samuel Sharpe Pocklington with His Wife, Pleasance, and possibly His Sister, Frances George Stubbs (artist)
British, 1724 - 1806
Captain Samuel Sharpe Pocklington with His Wife, Pleasance, and possibly His Sister, Frances, 1769
oil on canvas
overall: 100.2 x 126.6 cm (39 7/16 x 49 13/16 in.) framed: 120.7 x 146.4 x 7.6 cm (47 1/2 x 57 5/8 x 3 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Charles S. Carstairs in memory of her husband, Charles Stewart Carstairs
On View
From the Tour: British Conversation Pieces and Portraits of the 1700s
Object 3 of 6

George Stubbs, one of Europe’s most important painters of animal subjects, was virtually self-taught as a zoologist, botanist, painter, and engraver. After embarking on a career as a portraitist, he became lecturer on human and animal anatomy at the hospital in York. As much a scientist as an artist, Stubbs published The Anatomy of the Horse in 1766, illustrated from his own dissections. He also experimented with Josiah Wedgwood in painting with enamels on ceramic plaques. Although Stubbs was voted into London’s Royal Academy of Art, he chose not to join that cultural institution in order to pursue his scientific studies.

This canvas celebrates the marriage in 1769 of Captain Samuel Sharpe to Pleasance Pocklington, heiress of Chelsworth Hall, Suffolk. (The captain retired from the Scots Guard in the same year and adopted his wealthy wife’s family name.) The bride in her wedding gown offers a bouquet to her husband’s steed. The other woman may be Frances, the captain’s unmarried sister.

Typical of Stubbs’ straightforward, scientific approach, the horse is rendered accurately, without artificial sentiment. The lake’s haze demonstrates Stubbs’ understanding of weather, and the majestic oak tree is an archetypal specimen that appears in his other conversation pieces.

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