Christie’s to Auction Famous Painting

Sometimes the magnificence of horse racing is seen beyond the race track. There are times when the magic and wonder of horse racing comes alive through in art. An art work that is not only considered to be the best work of the artist but of horse racing as well, will be coming up for auction at Christie’s, and has a pre-sale price estimate of £20m attached to it. It is a moment to reflect on the talent of George Stubbs, as well as on the history and significance of horse racing and the role it has played in the lives of millions for centuries.

George Stubbs was born on 25 August 1724. As an artist, he became known for his realistic and perfect renderings of horses. Even the second Marquess of Rockingham commissioned a horse painting from him, known as Whistlejacket, which now graces the walls of the London National Gallery. His horse portraits were legendary. Even if he painted groups of horses, solo portraits or horses with their grooms, each living creature in the picture gained its own personality. On 10 July 1806, Stubbs passed away as one of the greatest English painters that ever lived.

Stubbs’ painting Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, is known to be the most exquisite horse racing painting of all time. With the Newmarket Heath as its backdrop and horses training in the background, the painting focuses on the horse in the forefront, Gimcrack, standing for his rubdown, visibly exhausted, with the detail of his veins showing across his body. His stable hand, jockey and trainer are also depicted in the painting.

Gimcrack, was a small horse, but a racing icon of his day, that was sired by Cripple out of the mare Miss Elliot. He won twenty-seven of his thirty-six career starts, and retired at age eleven in 1771 to become a stud sire. Interestingly his bloodline became more sought after in the United States than in his country of birth. The Gimcrack Stakes and the Gimcrack Club were named in his honor.

It is the third time that this magnificent painting, done on commission for Gimcrack’s owner, Lord Bolingbroke, in 1765, is going on auction. It was first sold by Walter Hutchinson, a descendant of Bolingbroke, in 1943, after which the Woolaving Collection bought it in 1951. Now the entire Woolaving Collection, the biggest sporting art collection in the United Kingdom, will go on auction. It is believed that Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath will become one of the top five selling paintings in the world, placing it in the company of Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo done by Rembrandt.