Sawrey Gilpin, R.A. 1733 - 1807
Horses in a Thunderstorm
Photo: R.A./John Hammond
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Horses in a Thunderstorm, 1798
Oil on canvas, 846 X 1277 mm
Diploma Work given by Sawrey Gilpin, R.A., accepted 1798
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Gilpin's Diploma work embodies the spirit of Romanticism. Dramatic tension is created by the play of light and shadow and heightened by a zigzag bolt of lightning. The horses are individualised by their varied physical and emotional responses to the storm. The un-manicured landscape enhances the painting's sense of freedom and wildness, which is integral to the notion of the Romantic sublime. The painting appealed to Eugène Delacroix, who in 1825, made a watercolour copy of the rearing grey horse on the left for the painter and collector Louis-Auguste Schwiter (Budapest).

Gilpin was initially trained by his father who like his brother William was an amateur artist. During his subsequent apprenticeship to the marine painter Samuel Scott, Gilpin began sketching the horses and carts of Covent Garden market near Scott's studio. He progressed to become an accomplished painter of animal and sporting pictures. Like his celebrated contemporary George Stubbs, Gilpin ventured into painting elevated 'historical' animal paintings but found that his patrons preferred his more conventional work. He often collaborated with artists such as Philip Reinagle, George Barret and J.M.W. Turner by adding animals to their paintings.

This work is currently on display in the Council Room at the Royal Academy of Arts and can be viewed by attending one of the free tours of the John Madejski Fine Rooms. Click here for further information about the tours