A painting of a racehorse, described as one of the finest sporting pictures ever painted, could fetch more than £20 million ($33 million) when it is sold at auction this summer. On July 5 in London, Christie’s is going to sell a George Stubbs horse painting titled Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, a Stable-Lad, and a Jockey, one of the most important works by George Stubbs and arguably one of the greatest of all horse-racing paintings.
The masterpiece work was painted in 1765 for Viscount Bolingbroke, who owned Gimcrack,one of the most famous and successful racehorses of its time. In the painting, Gimcrack appears twice, as he’s shown in the background winning a trial and in the foreground being rubbed down with his trainer and jockey.
George Stubbs started his career as a portrait painter in his native Liverpool and York before finding fame as a painter of horses. Unusual for a mid 18th century sporting painting is the vast expanse of clouds and sky, worthy of Constable decades later. It is also apparently in very good condition, which not all Stubbs paintings are because of the materials he used.
The sale on 5 July is the third time that the work has been at Christie’s. It was sold by Bolingbroke descendents in 1943 to Walter Hutchinson, who set up the National Gallery of British Sports and Pastimes – sadly, a relatively short-lived affair, said John Stainton, the senior director of British pictures and sporting art at Christie’s. In 1951, it was bought by the Woolavington Collection for 12,000 guineas (£12,600), the greatest collection of sporting art in the UK that had been mostly formed at the turn of the century by the whisky magnate and racehorse owner Lord Woolavington.
The collection is now selling, and Christie’s says it is one of the most valuable old master paintings to appear at auction. [Christie’s]