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Sawrey Gilpin 1733-1807
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Sawrey Gilpin 1733-1807

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A dark bay and a grey horse in a fenced paddock by a wood


Oil painting on canvas 28 x 36 inches and contained in its original carved gilwood George III frame


Provenance: The Earls of Lonsdale, Lowther Castle, and by descent


Gilpin was born at Scaleby, near Carlisle, Cumberland (which had been the Gilpin seat for four generations), on 30 October 1733, the seventh child of Captain John Bernard Gilpin (1701–1776), landscape painter, and his wife, Matilda, née Langstaffe (1703–1773), and younger brother of the writer on art William Gilpin (1724-1804). Gilpin's initial training was received from his father, who subsequently sent him (1749) to London to be apprenticed to Samuel Scott, the marine and topographical painter, for seven years. He stayed after the end of his apprenticeship for a further two years as Scott's studio assistant

By 1758, Gilpin had begun to concentrate on sporting paintings and his work soon attracted the attention of the Duke of Cumberland, who commissioned him to portray the horses in his studs at Newmarket and Windsor. Later patrons included Colonel Thornton of York, the indefatigable sportsman, and Samuel Whitbread, M.P. who became a life-long patron, and  to whose house at Southill he retired after the death of his wife in 1802.


Gilpin collaborated with other artists including Turner, Marlow, Romney and Zoffany, for whom he painted the animals in landscapes and conversation pieces. Amongst his pupils were Gooch and Garrard: the latter married his eldest daughter Matilda. Gilpin exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1762-1783, where he was elected President in 1774, and at the Royal Academy from 1786-1807, where he was elected a full Royal Academician in 1797, an honour never received by his contemporary George Stubbs, with whom his contemporaries frequently compared his work.


The present painting repeats a motif to which Gilpin returned frequently throughout his career: the portrayal of two animals head-to-head in a parkland setting. It also includes the large dock-leaves in the foreground which appear in innumerable pictures, a habit he shared with Stubbs. It is likely that this is a work from the artist's productive and successful middle-hears around 1775, and that it was painted for the Lonsdales of Lowther who were the leaders of “society” in Gilpin's native county of Cumberland, and of which his family were scholarly gentry


Comparative Painting




Sawrey Gilpin: A bay and a grey horse with groom, spaniel and pointer in a field. Signed and dated 1779. The portrait of the groom in this painting is by Henry Walton (With Lane Fine Art 1999)





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