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Oil painting - Horses in a stable
  • Horses in a stable
    George Morland, born 1763 - died 1804
  • Enlarge image

Horses in a stable

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1791 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    George Morland, born 1763 - died 1804 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This oil painting is one of a large group of objects bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend in 1868. It was painted by George Morland (1763-1804) and is signed G. Morland, 1791.

Morland showed a talent for painting at a very young age and exhibited chalk drawings at the Royal Academy as early as 1773, aged only ten years old. He was apprenticed to his father, the painter Henry Robert Morland (1716-1797), for seven years from 1777. During that time he was chiefly employed in the copying and forging of paintings, particularly seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes.

Between 1786 and 1790 Morland established his reputation as a painter of moralizing and domestic genre subjects. From 1790 onwards his focus shifted to rustic genre subjects, notable for their conspicuous lack of incident. This painting is typical of this sort of work and shows the way in which Morland managed to depict such subjects without over-sentimentalising them.

Morland had a prolific output, reputedly painting more than 800 works in the last eight years of his life but his extravagant life-style meant he was often plagued by debt. His paintings were extremely popular and widely copied by engravers to meet the demand that existed for his work in Britain, France and Germany.

Physical description

The scene takes place within a stable. To the left are two horses: a brown one feeding from a wooden trough, still wearing harnesses and a white/grey one lying down, tied by a rope to the trough the other feeds from. To their right, a young man stoops to push a wooden barrow full of straw/hay, a broom lies on the hay-strewn floor in front of him. Behind the man is a wooden ladder/ramp leading up to the hay-loft. There is a window in the far wall of the building through which can be scene blue sky and clouds. An earthenware jug sits on the window sill.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1791 (painted)


George Morland, born 1763 - died 1804 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

G Morland 1791
Signed and dated, right hand side, above and to the right of the wheel barrow.


Height: 34 in estimate, Width: 46.25 in estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868
Taken from Parkinson, Ronald, "Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860", (Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990), p.xix.

"Chauncy Hare Townshend 1798-1868
Born 20 April 1798 of a wealthy family, only son of Henry Hare Townsend of Busbridge Hall, Godalming, Surre. Educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1821). Succeeded to the family estates 1827, when he added 'h' to the Townsend name. He had taken holy orders, but while he always referred to himself as 'Rev.' on the title pages of his books, he never practised his vocation... . Very much a dilettante in the eighteenth-century sense, he moved in the highest social and literary circles; a great friend of Charles Dickens (he was the dedicatee of 'Great Expectations') with whom he shared a fascination of mesmerism... Bulwer Lytton described his life's 'Beau-deal of happiness' as 'elegant rest, travel, lots of money - and he is always ill and melancholy'. He died 25 February 1868. Of the many watercolours and British and continental oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A, the majority are landscapes. He is the first identifiable British collector of early photographs apart from the Prince Consort, particularly landscape photography, and also collected gems and geological specimens."

Historical significance: George Morland (1763-1804), landscape and genre painter, was the son of Henry Robert Morland, painter, engraver and art dealer. His father encouraged his early artistic promise, training him through copying old-master drawings. At 14 Morland began an official seven-year apprenticeship with his father, during which he made a particular study of 17th century Dutch landscapes and genre scenes, copying works which his father sold as original works. He also made copies of shipwreck subjects by Cluade-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) and landscapes and fancy pictures by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). These subjects had a great impact on his mature work. Once freed from his apprenticeship he embarked on the life of drinking and association with low-life characters for which he became notorious. By 1786 he had embarked on a fruitful partnership with the engraver William Ward and John Raphael Smith, also a printmaker and a publisher. Morland became established as a painter of moralizing and domestic genre subjects, most of which were intended for the popular print market. As the DNB notes "The subjects were usually of a didactic, moralizing nature, portraying contrasting virtues and vices". Modelled on the work of William Hogarth, they were more in tune with late 18th century ideas of sensibility and were more refined, even sentimental. In 1790 however Morland made the decision to move away from such clear narrative content, painting genre subjects in which there was no narrative or subject matter as such. This seems to have been a response to a shift in taste away from essentially elegant domestic genre, to the picturesque. At the same time he began to modify his style to a less finished, more painterly, even rough handling. He found his new subjects in the village of Paddington where he now lived, opposite an inn frequented by drovers and other country characters. He was hugely prolific and sold most of paintings to dealers. He also continued to work closely with the printmakers and publishers. However, he was no businessman and was often in debt. The last years of his career he was in decline, physically and professionally.

In 1791 George Morland exhibited at the Royal Academy (no.58), Inside of a stable (from the address : 63, Charlotte St., Rathbone Place); this painting is now in the Tate Collection. This V&A picture, called by the museum simply Horses in a Stable is dated 1791. It is notable that later, in 1794, Morland exhibited a painting at the RA with the title Interior of a stable (no.169), and that additionally the Department File for this painting records that in 1958 a member of the public sent in a photograph of an oil painting in their possession with a similar compostion, "except that the foreground horse is lying in the opposite direction". [The painting was later examined in the museum (see Registered Papers 58/76)]. The subject of the interior of a stable was therefore one much repeated, with variations, in Morland's work. After 1790 Morland chose to move away from the strong narrative content of his ealier paintings, and had begun to paint scenes of everyday life that were almost entirely without incident. From this date Morland was also living in the rural village of Paddington, opposite the White Lion inn, which was used by drovers en route for London. In this setting he found many of the subjects for this new type of painting, and it is likely that this scene was inspired by observing the life of the inn on a day-to-day basis. The Departmental File records that a member of the public owned a pencil drawing (signed and dated 1791) of the boy and the wheelbarrow.

Historical context note

Taken from Lionel Lambourne, An Introduction to 'Victorian' Genre Painting, from Wilkie to Frith, (Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1982).
"...Throughout the eighteenth century, as the capital [of London] grew in size so did the nostalgia among sophisticated Londoners for the joys of a rural Arcadia. [Francis] Hayman's decorations for the supper boxes at Vauxhall Gardens, the famous London pleasure garden, which portrayed boys sliding on the ice and other rural games, and the charming freshness of milkmaids on May Day [V&A, P.13-1947 and P.12-1947] mark the first phase in the characteristic English development of the 'fancy picture', of which Thomas Gainsborough was the greatest exponent [with his Cottage Door paintings]. Such pastoral themes were to prove hardy perennials in the English genre tradition. As the eighteenth century came to a close, a new note was introduced into pastoral painting by the work of artists like .... W R Bigg. The title alone of Bigg's 'A Cottager at His Door' [V&A, 198-1885] might lead one to expect a fancy subject similar to Gainsborough's frequent treatment of this theme, but the painting's uncompromising note or realism reminds us of the actualities of rural life behind the idyllic Arcadia of the pastoral painters. These qualities are found to an even greater degree in the work of George Morland (1763-1804).

Morland's erratic genius has been long neglected as a subject for serious study. In his own lifetime he became a legendary figure, the public delighting in seeing him as an intemperate genius, always in debt, who miraculously never lost a happy facility for turning out pictorial combinations of pigs and pretty girls. In fact, a closer study of his work reveals both a surprisingly wide acquaintance with contemporary artistic theories and literature (he illustrated Voltaire), and a considerable knowledge of the Dutch School acquired during his apprenticeship to his father, Henry Robert Morland ... Thus equipped, George Morland was able to give to his chosen rural themes a surprising strength [see V&A, The Reckoning, FA 237]. Occasionally, in a work like Johnny Going to the Fair [also called] The Valentine [V&A, 541-1882], a note of ambiguity is introduced which distinguishes the treatment from that of [later] 'Victorian' painters who sometimes were less subtle and understanding in their approach.

The work of Bigg and Morland should be seen against the background of social upheaval in the Agrarian Revolution of the later eighteenth century. The rural life they recorded was soon to be affected also by the remorseless growth of the manufacturing cities, and a dramatic increase in population. The middle classes which arose during these difficult years of economic reconstruction and expansion after the Napoleonic wars still felt a nostalgia for their rural roots, which was to be reflected in the painting which they purchased with the fruits of their new-found prosperity" [end Lambourne].

For an alternative interpretation of the depiction of the rural poor in the genre paintings of George Morland and in the prints after his work, see John Barrell, The darkside of the landscape: The rural poor in English painting 1730-1840, (Cambridge University Press, 1983 [paperback], pp.89-129).

Descriptive line

Oil painting on canvas, 'Horses in a Stable', George Morland, 1791

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

George Morland : an exhibition of paintings and drawings, London : Arts Council of Great Britain, 1954


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Hay; Trough; Man; Jug; Broom; Horses; Stable; Barrow




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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