George Stubbs, A Horse Affrighted by a Lion, an etching

London, England
AD 1777

When George Stubbs first became famous in London in 1763 it was for a painting of this subject - a lion stalking a horse. Horace Walpole published a poem about how he had been profoundly moved by the painting when he saw it at the Society of Artists' exhibition. Several engravers made mezzotints of horses surprised or attacked by lions after paintings by Stubbs, but this etching is the painter's own definitive published version of his design. Although closely related to a painting now at the Tate Gallery, London, the print is not an exact reproduction of any known painted original.

The picture is intended to express the terror of the horse and to invite the spectator to identify with the innocent and beautiful victim. The agitated lines are intended to reflect the horror of the trapped horse. The sublime emotional intensity is reinforced by the stormy weather and the wild landscape. Stubbs has transferred a formula for expressing human terror - staring eyes, stretched nostrils, bared teeth - to his animal subject. The design exploits the increasing sympathy felt in the late-eighteenth century for animals in distress and for victims of cruelty in general.

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More information


A. Griffiths, Prints and printmaking: an int, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

T. Clayton, The English print, 1688-1802 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997)

C. Lennox-Boyd, R. Dixon and T. Clayton, George Stubbs: the complete en (London, Sothebys, 1989)


Height: 370.000 mm
Width: 48.300 mm

Museum number

PD 1865-1-14-909



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