By the second half of the 18th century, british society portraits by thomas gainsborough and joshua reynolds were painted on a grand scale in the european manner. however, george stubbs’s equivalent representations of heroic racehorses, such as 'whistlejacket', were uniquely british.
whistlejacket was foaled in 1749. his most famous victory was in a race over four miles for 2000 guineas at york in august 1759. stubbs's huge picture was painted in about 1762 for the 2nd marquess of rockingham, whistlejacket's owner and a great patron of stubbs.
according to some writers of the period the original intention was to commission an equestrian portrait of george iii, but it is more likely that stubbs always intended to show the horse alone rearing up against a neutral background.
Thomas lawrence was born #onthisday in 1769 in bristol, moved with his family to devizes and then to bath. he took to painting in 1786 and became a pupil at the royal academy school in 1787; in the following year, at the age of 19, he exhibited his first portrait. in 1794 he became a member of the academy and painter-in-ordinary to the king (george iii) on the death of reynolds in 1792. he was knighted in 1815 and became president of the academy five years later. he was very successful in commercial terms, and made (and spent) a great deal of money. he was also a collector and formed one of the finest collections of old master drawings ever known.
lawrence's portrait, 'queen charlotte', hangs in room 36. charlotte sophia of mecklenburg-strelitz married george iii of england in 1761. she sat to lawrence in the autumn of 1789, but did so unwillingly, having recently undergone the shock of george iii's first attack of apparent insanity. the pearl bracelets on queen charlotte's wrists were part of the king's wedding gift to her; one clasp contains his portrait miniature, the other his royal monogram. although lawrence's portrait was considered to be very like queen charlotte, it failed to please the king and queen and remained in the artist's possession. it was exhibited at the royal academy in 1790.