Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Lecture Notes: Valerie Fraser on Stubbs/Perez

Amador Perez, Drawing 1

It’s always good to have more than one pair of eyes focusing on a work of art. The other day after lecturing on 18th century landscape painting I arranged for us to look at a couple of drawings from our collection of Latin American art based on a painting by George Stubbs of 1786. The original, now in Tate Britain, shows a very successful team – jockey John Larkin on the racehorse Otho – both very stiff and proud against a stormy sky. 

200 years later, in 1986, Brazilian Amador Perez reworked aspects the picture on a very small scale - we were taking it in turns to get a really close squint - and guess what? Sharp-eyed students spotted things in one of the drawings that I'd never noticed: a white horse with no rider and just a suggestion of wings, and a horse and rider conflated into a sort of blurry centaur who instead of a riding crop holds a bow and arrow. Wonderful! Perez is extending ideas of the speed, power and man-horse teamwork involved in horse racing into the realms of mythology – of Pegasus the winged horse, and Sagittarius, the bow-and-arrow carrying centaur.

So thank you, students, for helping me see Perez more clearly, and thanks too to Perez for helping me to see Stubbs in a new light. Very satisfying.

George Stubbs, Otho with John Larkin up

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