Horse Paintings

Many fine paintings reflecting the family’s love of horse racing and horse training, including a unique group of twelve very large paintings of horses, dating from the early seventeenth century.

Other artists in the Collection include John Wootton whose patron was Edward Harley and who commissioned 41 paintings from Wootton in total.

The Collection also features work by John Herring and George Stubbs.

Stubbs is considered perhaps the greatest horse painter of all time. He captured the spirit of the 18th century gentry at play with their racehorses and had a romantic spirit that captured the wild, untamed elements of nature.

There are two Stubbs paintings in The Portland Collection. The piece shown above was commissioned by the 3rd Duke of Portland after he inherited Welbeck in 1762.  The painting shows the Duke in the classic pose of noble authority, mounted on a well bred horse, in an architectural setting flanked by a groom and stable boy.  When the painting was shown in a exhibition in 1767 it was titled A nobleman on horseback, although visitors to the exhibition would have known and noted the identity of the sitter.

George Stubbs knew Welbeck well and painted several paintings using nearby Creswell Crags as a backdrop for his horse portraits.

Horse Racing and Welbeck

The Dukes of Portland and their families helped develop horse racing to become the sport we know today.

The 4th Duke of Portland (1768-1854), was a devoted follower of horseracing and builder of ‘The Portland Stand’ at Newmarket. Lord George Bentinck (1802 – 1848) the 4th Duke’s younger son, followed in his father’s footsteps and was instrumental in developing horse racing.

Lord George earned the unofficial title of Lord Paramount of the Turf at Newmarket, and started many reforms including the use of a starting flag. He worked to eliminate fraud following the ‘Dirty Derby’ of 1844, and invented the horse box to move his horses to races, without tiring them with a long ride to the venue.

The 6th Duke’s horses, Donovan, Memoir, Ayrshire and Semolina, were champions – in one season their prizes totalled £96,000, the equivalent of over 5 million pounds today, which paid for the ornate almshouses on the Welbeck Estate, named ‘The Winnings’. His granddaughter Lady Anne Bentinck (1916-2008) was a dedicated horsewoman who still rode at 90 years of age.

Our publication ‘Horses and Landscapes: George Stubbs at Welbeck’ is available to buy from Amazon.