SAWREY GILPIN for Thursday Art Day

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This week for Thursday Art day we enjoy the art and learn about Sawrey Gilpin. His horses are painted with an elegance and lightness that immediately transports the viewer back into the romance and the urgency of the time.

SAWREY GILPIN (1733 – 1807)

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Gilpin was born in Carlisle in Cumbria, the seventh child of Captain John Bernard Gilpin, soldier and amateur artist, and Matilda Langstaffe. Sawrey learnt drawing as a child from his father, and showing an early aptitude for art, he was sent to London at the age of fourteen, to study under Samuel Scott, the marine painter, in Covent Garden. Gilpin, however, preferred sketching the passing market carts and horses, and it soon became evident that animals, and especially horses, were his speciality.

The Grey Arab

Gilpin left Scott in 1758, and devoted himself to animal painting from that time. Some of Gilpin’s sketches were shown to the Duke of Cumberland, who was much impressed by them, and employed Gilpin to draw from his stud at Newmarket and at Windsor, where the Duke was ranger of the Great Park. He afforded Gipin considerable material assistance in his profession.

Subsequently Gilpin resided at Knightsbridge in London for some years. He became one of the best painters of horses that the country had produced, and nearly as successful in other areas of animal art. He sometimes attempted historical pictures on a larger scale in which horses were prominent, but with rather less success. He was an animal painter only, and required the assistance of others to paint landscapes and figures; for the former he often turned to George Barret, Sr., to whom he gave similar service in return, and for the latter he had recourse sometimes to John Zoffany, and Philip Reinagle.

A groom feeding a horse



Gilpin first exhibited with the Incorporated Society of Artists in 1762, and continued to show pictures there, chiefly pictures of horses, up to 1783. In 1768, and 1770-1, he exhibited a series of pictures illustrating ‘Gulliver’s visit to the Houyhnhnms’, one of which was engraved in mezzotint by Valentine Green; in 1770 a drawing of ‘Darius gaining the Persian Empire by the neighing of his horse; in 1771 ‘The Duke of Cumberland visiting his stud (with a view of Windsor Castle from the Great Park, by William Marlow)’. In 1773 he became a director of the society, and in 1774 president.

In 1786 he exhibited at the Royal Academy, London and continued to show pictures there until his death. He was elected an associate of the academy (ARA) in 1795, and Royal Academician (RA) in 1797.

Gilpin married Elizabeth Broom; their son William Sawrey Gilpin (1762–1843) also became an artist, and in later life a landscape gardener. After losing his wife Gilpin resided for some time with his friend Samuel Whitbread in Bedfordshire. He subsequently returned to London, and spent his declining years with his daughters at Brompton, where he died 8 March 1807, in his seventy-fourth year.

Gulliver’s visit to the Houyhnhnms


Amongst his pupils were John Warwick Smith and George Garrard – the latter married his eldest daughter Matilda. Many of his pictures of horses, dogs, and sporting scenes were engraved, notably ‘The Death of the Fox’ (Royal Academy, 1788), engraved by John Scott (1774–1827); and ‘Heron-Hawking’ (Society of Artists, 1780), engraved by Thomas Morris (fl. 1780-1800). He also made some etchings of horses and cattle, and contributed numerous drawings for the illustration of his brother’s (the Rev. W. Gilpin) published and unpublished works.

Horses in a storm


His portrait is in the series of drawings by George Dance (1741–1821), engraved by William Daniell, and now in the National Portrait Gallery. Works by Sawrey Gilpin are in the collections of the Courtauld Institute of Art , Tate Britain , and the Royal Academy, in London and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

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