This detailed racing scene was printed using two separate copper plates and two sheets of paper; later joined at the centre to form the complete image.
In 1723 the engraver and antiquary George Vertue recorded the activities of Tillemans, who Vertue tells us was known for his paintings of ‘huntings, [and] racings, of which he is now etching and printing four large plates from his own designs.’ Some years later, Vertue reported further on the project. Tillemans had needed assistance in engraving the plates, perhaps as a result of his declining health, so he employed engraver Joseph Sympson to retouch the plates of his Newmarket scenes. According to Vertue, Sympson ‘persuaded’ Tillemans to allow him to add his name below the images. This would inevitably mean the works would be accepted as entirely engraved by Sympson. The engraver encouraged the artist to accept his proposal by proposing that, if the plates were not approved of, they could be ‘cut to pieces’. Reportedly, the artist was displeased with Sympson’s work but, ‘the poor man’s strength failing’, he none-the-less paid the engraver, whose name remained on the published prints.
Peter Tillemans was born in Antwerp; the son of a diamond cutter. He was brought to England by a picture dealer in 1708, where he soon made a name for himself and became a founding member of Godfrey Kneller’s Academy. In 1724 he collaborated with Joseph Goupy on scenery for Haymarket Opera House. He also produced some 500 topographical drawings for historian John Bridges. In the early 1720s he painted horse or racing scenes and views of the Thames. He was a member of the Rose and Crown Club and the Society of the Virtuosi of St Luke. His versatility is demonstrated by the range of work he painted for Dr Cox Macro, including battle scenes, landscapes, hunting scenes and portraits. He died, aged about 50, while staying with Macro in Suffolk.
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