Research Point: Dog Anatomy and George Stubbs

George Stubbs an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse

In this research point we were asked firstly to look at the skeletal structure of the cat, dog or horse and then secondly t research the anatomical drawings of George Stubbs.

The Skeletal Structure of a Dog

For the first part of the research point I decided to take a look at the skeletal structure of a dog, I’ve never been that interested in domestic cats, big cats on the other hand are a different story.

Firstly I found a great little video on YouTube showing the skeleton of a dog while trotting, getting familiar with the animal in motion I think is important when depicting movement in drawings.

Dogs have the same skeletal structure all though the length and shape of the bones changes from breed to breed with difference in height, width and length a Dachshund for example would have short leg bones compared to say a Great Dane and an English Mastiff would have a broad rib where as a Greyhound would have a deep rib cage. The biggest noticeable difference being the size and shape of the skull.

Skeletal Structure of the Domestic Dog
Skeletal Structure of the Domestic Dog

The canine skeleton is into two sections which are the Appendicular skeleton which includes the front and back legs and hips and the  Axial skeleton which includes the  includes the head, spine, tail and chest area.

Skeletal Sttructure of a Daschund
Skeletal Sttructure of a Dachschund

When looking at the dogs skeleton for the first time it’s amazing to see how much leg there is above the knee and even in the Dachshund skeleton the legs are suprisingly long.

Great Dane and Chihuahua Skeletons
Great Dane and Chihuahua Skeletons
Skeletal Structure of a Greyhound
Skeletal Structure of a Greyhound

The Anatomical Drawings of George Stubbs

Mares and Foals in a River Landscape 1763-68
‘Mares and Foals in a River Landscape’, 1763-68 (oil on canvas)

I can’t lie, I had never heard of George Stubbs before taking this course and to be honest paintings of horses in front of beautiful scenery have never really interested me, for some reason they remind me of sitting in gloomy houses on rainy days. Over my 40 years I have probably seen prints of George Stubbs’s paintings many times in families and friends homes and the surrounding environments have never really made them stand out. Not that I wouldn’t pay them the respect they deserve if I saw the actual paintings in a gallery environment.

Whistlejacket, is a name that I have heard before, but I’m not sure from where, looking at the painting it does look quite familiar and this unlike say ‘Mares and Foals in a River Landscape’, is not only a very likeable painting but the detail he has captured in this work is quite stunning not only has he managed to capture the muscle tone in every part of the horses body but he has depicted perfectly the texture of the horses hair in its body, main and tale. I love the way he has captured the defined muscle in the back legs to depict how the back legs are taking the weight of the rest of the horse as it rears up. It is a very beautiful piece and reminds me of the Study of a Horse by Leonardo da Vinci that I posted in my previous research point.

George Stubbs an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse
George Stubbs an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse

I absolutely love his anatomical drawings they’re quite dark and are more up my street than his finished pieces. Looking at the Dorsal View off the Muscle Structure of a Progressively Dissected Horse, Study No.7 from The Anatomy of the Horse, 1766 you can see how this study of the muscles in the hind legs of the horse has informed him of how the muscles should look in different positions, and how even after the completion of Whistlejacket, a painting that he was commissioned to paint by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham of her champion racehorse 4 years earlier he was still persistent to take his realistic paintings of horses to the point of perfection.

Stubbs was born in Liverpool in 1724. His father was a currier and as a child he would help his father in his job stretching and burnishing leather for the local tannery. He moved to a remote farmhouse in Lincolnshire in 1756 with his lifelong partner, there he began work on ‘the Anatomy of the Horse’ a book of engravings illustrating the many layers of the horse’s anatomy from its skin to its skeletal structure.

He had a ready supply of cadavers (horse corpses) from a nearby tannery which he strung up from the roof on hooks in different poses as required. He thoroughly recorded his dissections with drawings and notes at every level as he peeled the creatures through their skin, muscle and all the way down to the skeleton. The book took him 18 months to complete and was finally published in 1766.

George Stubbs Skeleton of a Horse
George Stubbs Skeleton of a Horse

In ‘The Skeleton of a Horse’ 1766 (engraving) he has captured the stance of the horse so well that it seems to be a live like an x-ray or CGI skeleton and you can definitely see how this has helped him capture the spirit of the horses in his finished paintings.



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