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George Stubbs was a master at what he did, and he knew it. Having trained himself to perfection in the anatomy of horses by killing many to get the clear picture, he got the title of 'the horse painter' and would paint the horses effortlessly.
The critical subject aside, his liking for the animals in action; either hunting or racing, made his horseback portraits exceptional. Stubbs got his inspiration to paint masters on horsebacks after a rebuff; Josiah Wedgwood, a potter, claimed that "Nobody suspects Mr. Stubbs of painting anything but horses and lions or dogs and tigers." Racehorses Belonging to the Duke of Richmond Exercising at Goodwood was among his first works on riders and horses. In this portrait, the painter brings three different but seemingly similar activities combined.
The three in one painting depicts a take-off of riders on horses as pet dogs race along, the royalties at the center stage watching the exercising horses and the third shows straw-rubbing cleaning of a horse after work by stable lads. Stubbs gives a clear difference of the statuses by shading the riders and grooms in their yellow uniform while the Richmond family watches on in green and black with the Duke's sister-in-law Lady Louisa sitting at an almost distant position.
If you take a keen look at the painting, the Duke's dark horse and his dark green outfit are different from his steward who is seen pointing at the hooded riders on the tracks; an indication that the painter gives thought to the small almost missed-out-on facts. Another figure that seems to be of the Duke’s household is also seen emerging from behind the hedge.
George Stubbs also did two other portraits of the Richmond's: The Charlton Hunt with the Duke and his brother in a broader scene including several other characters and hounds ready for a hunting spree and Shooting at Goodwood with the Duke's brother-in-law and his cousin getting ready for a shoot. Other inspirational portraits of horseback riders that the painter did afterward include The Duchess of Richmond and Lady Louisa Lennox Watching the Duke of Richmond's Racehorses at Exercise, Bay Malton with John Singleton Up among others. Stubbs in his painting Racehorses Belonging to the Duke Exercising at Goodwood wanted to achieve drama and rhythm which he did with his subjects on the landscape portrait.