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Soft ground etching with roulette; 1788. Lennox-Boyd, Dixon & Clayton 72: iii/III. A brilliant impression of this extremely rare print. In fine, apparently unwashed condition, except for several very small marginal tears, not affecting the image itself. The cataloguers
noted only one impression of the first state, before all text below and before the tonal work in the rocks in the foreground, and in the second state, with the text in the margin below the image, only three impressions, and in the third state, different from the second by an addition of very small marks above the word ‘painted’ in the text, three impressions; the third of this state cited as ‘private collection’ is possibly this impression.
Stubbs elevated his principal subject, Animals, both domestic and wild, to a level of psychological intensity and brilliance of execution never surpassed by later artists, including Géricault, whose depiction of horses forms a considerable part of his graphic output. His prints, rare in trade, presented animals, whom later artists often saw in sentimental terms, with directness and dignity.
The artist saw wild creatures either as energetic and ferocious or as relaxed and monumental. Stubbs’ etching presents a tiger in the foreground lying with paws extended in majestic ease, but filled with latent power and menace. Surrounded by dark forest, the beast remains an exemplar of nature entirely foreign to Britain. As native to India, it would have reminded viewers that Britain, by then the possessor of the fabled Indies, was witness to the sub-continent as the home of mysteries and challenging marvels. William Blake in his famous poem, The Tyger, of 1794 must have known of Stubbs’ etchings, the two works project an entirely similar spirit.