Overview

Captain Pocklington, who wears the uniform of the Scots Guard, retired from the third regiment in 1769, the same year that Stubbs painted this group portrait. Seated on the bench is the captain's wife, Pleasance, who is probably wearing bridal clothes. The woman standing behind Pleasance is presumably Pocklington's sister, Frances.

Stubbs' fame is based on his precise and naturalistic depictions of animals, primarily horses, even in paintings such as this that are ostensibly about human matters. Stubbs lived in a world fascinated with scientific inquiry; he himself actually performed dissections of animals to fully understand their anatomy.

Stubbs' interest in the structure and complexity of living things led him to adopt a working style in which he first painted the individual figures and then completed the background and secondary details. The subjects are arranged in a friezelike pattern against the darker, more muted shades of the massive tree and fanciful landscape. Stubbs was not invited to exhibit at the Royal Academy because he had been labeled as a horse painter, and his popularity sank even lower during the romantic era. Now in an age that looks back on pioneers such as Stubbs with fascination and respect, his stature as an artist has greatly increased.

Inscription

lower right: Geo: Stubbs / pinxit 1769

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Painted for Samuel Sharpe Pocklington [d. 1781], Chelsworth Hall, Suffolk; by descent through his elder son, Colonel Sir Robert Pocklington, who married Catherine Blagrave, to John Blagrave, Calcot Park, Berkshire; (sale, Messrs. Foster, London, 28 June 1911, no. 102); F. Howard. (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); purchased by 1913 by Charles Stewart Carstairs [1865-1928], Lockport, New York; by inheritance to Mrs. Charles S. Carstairs [née Elizabeth Stebbins, d. 1949], Lockport, New York, and Paris;[1] bequest 1952 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1927
Meisterwerke englischer Malerei aus drei Jahrhunderten, Secession, Vienna, 1927, no. 54, repro.
1930
English Conversation Pieces, Sir Philip Sassoon's, 45 Park Lane, London, 1930, no. 47 (souvenir, 49, repro.).
1934
British Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1934, no. 395 (commemorative catalogue, no. 165, repro.).
1936
On Loan to the Tate Gallery, London, 1936-1947.
1984
George Stubbs 1724-1806, Tate Gallery, London; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1984-1985, no. 107, color repro., color detail, (cat. by Judy Egerton).
2004
Stubbs & The Horse, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; The National Gallery, London, 2004-2005, no. 58, fig. 61.

Bibliography

1960
Cooke, Hereward Lester. British Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Eight in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 24, color repro., as Colonel Pocklington with His Sisters.
1962
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 126, color repro., as Colonel Pocklington with His Sisters.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 319, repro., as Colonel Pocklington with His Sisters.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 126, as Colonel Pocklington with His Sisters.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:356, color repro., as Colonel Pocklington and His Sisters.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 112, repro., as Colonel Pocklington with His Sisters.
1971
Praz, Mario. Conversation Pieces. London, 1971: 134, color cover and color fig. 95.
1971
Taylor, Basil. Stubbs. London, 1971: 37-38, pls. 57-59.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 334, repro., as Colonel Pocklington with His Sisters.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 529, color repro.
1979
Watson, Ross. National Gallery of Art. London, 1979: 92 pl. 79, color repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 368, no. 516, color repro., as Colonel Pocklington and His Sisters.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 384, repro.
1992
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 259-261, color repro. 260.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 144, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 282-283, no. 230, color repro.

Conservation Notes

The medium-weight canvas is plain woven; it has been lined, but the tacking margins still survive intact. The lining and nonoriginal stretcher may be over one hundred years old; fabrics were mounted on the new stretcher slightly off center, so that original paint extends slightly onto the top edge of the stretcher and about half an inch of overpainted ground appears along the bottom edge. The ground is grayish white, of moderate thickness. The painting is executed smoothly, fluidly, and fairly thickly, with low impasto. Visible to the naked eye is an old, horizontal, retouched tear about 10 cm. long extending in from the right edge slightly above the rocks. The overall craquelure was inpainted in 1984; the abrasion in the horse's rump and in the dark foliage above the horse's tail was glazed over at the same time; although the original and lining fabrics are somewhat fragile, the restoration of 1984 did not include relining. The synthetic varnish has not discolored.

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