Both prints are based on oils George Stubbs painted for Henry Utrick Reay (b. 1750). The prints are inscribed under the titles with a dedication by George Townly Stubbs to Reay, a lawyer, colliery proprietor and wealthy landowner in Northumberland and County Durham. Reay was also a riding enthusiast. The original oil of Two Hunters (1786) is now in the South African National Gallery, Sir Abe Bailey Collection. The original oil of Two Hacks (1789) is in the collection of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.
George Stubbs (1724-1806) was one of the greatest sporting artists of Georgian England. He combined science and art by painting animals with anatomical precision. After a visit to Rome and a period of residence in Liverpool, he returned to England in 1760. He also drew horses based on dissections, and in 1766 published a monumental series of engravings, Anatomy of the Horse, which cemented his reputation as a master of the subject. His vast body of work includes paintings of the prize horses of England of the late 18th century, often with their proud owners or trainers. He also painted hunting scenes, and wild animals such as lions and tigers, including some with lions stalking horses. Stubbs served as president of the Society of Artists in 1773 and though he had his quarrels with the Royal Academy, he exhibited there periodically and was elected as an Associate in 1780. Many of his paintings are in the world’s major museums, with a large number represented in the Yale Center for British Art (Paul Mellon Collection). Some of the greatest engravers and printers of the day were engaged to render Stubbs’ animal pictures as prints, including William Woollett (1735-1785), and Stubbs’ son, the printmaker George Townly Stubbs (1756-1815) (sometimes spelled “Townley”).
Inscription below Two Hunters, with Reay’s coat of arms: “Two Hunters. Belonging to Henry, U, Reay of Burn Hall in the County of Durham, Esq’r. to whom this Plate is Dedicated by his much Obliged H’ble Ser. Geo. Townly Stubbs. Painted by George Stubbs. Engraved by Geo. Townly Stubbs. London Pubd. Jany. 1792 by Geo. Townly Stubbs No. 14 John Street Adelphi.”
Inscription below Two Hacks, with Reay’s coat of arms: “Two Hacks Belonging to Henry, U. Reay of Burn Hall in the County of Durham, Esq’r. to whom this Plate is Dedicated by his much Obliged H’ble Sert. G. Townly Stubbs. Painted by George Stubbs. Engrav’d by G. Townly Stubbs. London Pubd. Jany. 1792 by G.T. Stubbs No. 14 John Street Adelphi.”
Egerton, Judy. George Stubbs, Painter: Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007. Items 264 and 275. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=mFrO5o2X2EcC (4 October 2013).
Lennox-Boyd, Christopher, et al. George Stubbs: The Complete Engraved Works. London: Stipple Publishing Limited, 1989. Items 94 and 95, p. 229.
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 24 January 2005. http://www.devon.gov.uk/library/locstudy/bookhist/lonn.html (Orme) (6 April 2005).
Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 5, pp. 139-140 (Stubbs).