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A COLLECTION OF PLASTER MODELS OF BRITISH CATTLE BY GEORGE GARRARD (1760-1826)
Following his apprenticeship to Sawrey Gilpin, R.A., George Garrard went to the Royal Academy Schools in 1778. He later married Gilpin's daughter Matilda, and retained a close working relationship with his father-in-law throughout his life. From 1781 he began to exhibit animal subjects at the Royal Academy, and attracted the attention of Samuel Whitbread, M.P., who became a major patron. For him Garrard painted several views of the Whitbread Brewery in Chiswell Street, which were also turned into popular engravings by William Ward. Although two Royal commissions came from the Prince of Wales for horse subjects, no others followed. His principle patrons were the Dukes of Hamilton and Argyll, who he probably met when on a tour of Scotland with his father-in-law and the notorious Colonel Thomas Thornton (1755-1823).
Garrard also branched out into modelling sculptures in plaster, often tinted to imitate bronze, of rare breeds of cattle. Executed both as freestanding groups and also as overdoors - as with the bronze overdoor reliefs after La Fontaine's fables he supplied for Henry Holland's new Dining Room at Woburn - further examples remain both at Southill (Southill, A Regency House, London, 1951, figs. 11, 73-73, 85-87) and Burghley House, Lincolnshire. Garrard also went on to produce thirty-seven aquatints of these cattle, which attracted high praise from the Royal Academy. In later years he turned more and more to sculpture, exhibiting fewer pictures and more portrait busts and designs for equestrian statues, although at the end of his life, always struggling to make a living for himself and his family from his work, he again returned to painting horse and other animal subjects. He had a studio at 28 George Street, off Hanover Square, where he used to exhibit his pictures. He was instrumental in the campaign for an Act of Parliament, with Whitbread's help, along the lines of that organised before for engravers by William Hogarth, for securing the copyright in 'the works of plastic art' for sculptors; the Act was passed in 1798.
After 'patronising several attempts at delineating the livestock of different countries by painting or engraving', the Board of Agriculture commissioned George Garrard to produce a series of British cattle in which the exact proportion in every point should be accurately preserved'. The 'models were prepared from the best specimens that could be procured under the inspection of those noblemen, the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Egremont, and being examined at the committee of the Board of Agriculture, were much approved'.
The resultant group of plaster models of improved breeds of sheep and cattle at Woburn - four of which remain on Public display - were among the first three-dimensional representations of farm animals. They reflect the 5th and 6th Dukes keen interest in agricultural affairs, in part rewarded by the series of farming and agricultural medals they won, many of which were subsequently included in a silver salver designed by Sir Edwin Landseer in 1837 ('The Treasure Houses of Britain', Exhibition Catalogue, Washington, 1985, no.544). The top of Landseer's tray was inspired by George Garrards' well-known painting of 1804, The Woburn Sheepshearing (see lot 894), commissioned by the 6th Duke to celebrate an annual event at the Home Farm, which began with a Public Breakfast and continued over about five days with competitions for ploughing, shearing and livestock.
Garrard died on 8th October 1826 at Brompton, 'kneeling at prayer with his assembled family'.
This suite of sculptures by Garrard were placed in the long-since demolished Museum room in the East Wing, where they are recorded in the guidebook of 1890:- 'Visitors on their arrrival are shown into this room, in which in glass cases are a number of models of cattle in bronze, by Garrard; some Greek and Etruscan and four bronze vases; a collection of figures chiefly illustrative of the costume of Spain and Portugal; in the lower cases a small collection of natural history'.