(b. 1724, Liverpool, d. 1806, London)
William Anderson with Two Saddle-horses1793
Oil on canvas, 102,2 x 127,9 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor
Signed and dated lower centre: Geo: Stubbs p:/1793
There are eighteen paintings by Stubbs in the Royal Collection, all of which were almost certainly commissioned by George IV, or else acquired by him. Seventeen of these date from the early 1790s when Stubbs seems to have been particularly busy on behalf of his royal patron, to the extent that many of his pictures are recorded as being in store at Carlton House. A bill dated 14 February 1793 for frames made by Thomas Allwood reads: 'To Carving & Gilding eight Picture frames of half length size for sundry Pictures painted by Mr Stubbs. all of one pattern.' This is endorsed by Stubbs and the amount charged was ^110 l6s. 0d. The frame around the present picture is one of those made by Allwood.
William Anderson began as helper and hack-groom to George IV, when Prince of Wales, from 1788 to 1800, but he was appointed head groom in 1804 and finally Groom of the Stables in 1812. He wears royal livery - a scarlet coat with blue hat, collar and cuffs. The real subject of the painting, however, is not so much Anderson as the two chestnut horses of which George IV was particularly fond. A letter of 15 April 1790 from the Prince of Wales to his sporting companion, Sir John Lade, states: 'I have driven every day of late the chestnut horses wh. go better than any horses I have belonging to me.' The prince himself is shown riding a chestnut horse in a portrait by Stubbs, painted two years before the present painting (Royal Collection).
William Anderson with two Saddle-horses is a painting of outstanding quality. The composition is deceptively simple with the overlapping flanks of the two horses, silhouetted against the sky, fused in a memorable pattern. The emphasis throughout is on the horizontal and the only firm vertical is Anderson himself, rigid in the saddle of the leading horse. The languorous rhythm of the horses in the foreground of the picture is offset by the large expanse of sky, which takes up as much as three-quarters of the canvas, and by the flat rolling landscape contained within the remaining quarter. Stubbs achieves a moving, almost poetic, balance within the picture which should not be seen simply as an exercise in design. The artist uses his knowledge of anatomy in the depiction of the horses and there is a surprising variety of observation in the treatment of the clouds, the glimpse of the sea on the left, the copse and the burdock plants in the right foreground. The sea suggests that Anderson is shown riding near Brighton, a resort which the Prince of Wales first visited in 1783 and where he leased property in 1780 that was by degrees enlarged, originally by Henry Holland and then John Nash, to become the Royal Pavilion. The town became highly fashionable and had the added advantage of having a racecourse. In 1807-8 a stable block was added to the Pavilion with room for fifty-four horses. Domestic accounts record that Anderson was billetted in Brighton for twelve days in 1793 in addition to his work at Windsor. The second horse in the painting has presumably been saddled for the Prince of Wales.