“George Stubbs: Mr and Mrs Musters”

Reasons Why “George Stubbs: Mr and Mrs Musters” Painting Can Be Relevant To Building Designers Today.


As with anything that is seen, it gives a sense of what is, what was and what can be. The way we choose to look at it is based on what we know . A painting can be historically significant for multiple reason and show its significance in different ways. With this particular painting,” John And Sophia Musters Riding At Colwick Hall”.

It reflects a sense ofpower, ownership, form, status and history. Amongst otherthings; beauty, pride and gender, all show some relation between the past and present.

The significance of this painting, as it relates to aspects of design in today’s time will be further elaborated throughhistory. This includes an explanation to furtherunderstandwho the painter was, who the subjects wereand anyrelationshipthatmayhaveexisted. This paper will examine whether this painting is worthy of being precedence in the way designers approach their work today. The way art was consumed in the past will be compared to the way it consumed in present time.

 Brief Summarized History of The Musters


Image:John And Sophia Musters Riding At Colwick Hall, 1777, George Stubbs

I will expound on this topic firstly by presenting a brief history of the painting to provide the readers with clearcontext. Allow this piece of writing to present facts on who the membersoftheMusters family were.

The Musters were a established Nottinghamshire family whose history dated back to the seventeenth century to Sir John Musters of Hornsey, Middlesex. Sir John Musters purchased manors of Over and Nether Colwick from the Byron family. This was an estate that was past down from predecessor to predecessor. In history, some may find confusion, as did I in the name Chaworth, which was another family that join with the Musters to form the Chaworth-Musters family, a resultofmarriage. (Campbell, 1850).

From this brief history in relation to the painting, the persons concerned within this family are John Musters (1753-1827) and his wife Sophia Musters (d 1819) which can be seen in the Mr and Mrs Musters Painting showing them riding their horses at Colwick Hall in 1777 which was inherited.


From the brief history of The Musters Family, there begins to be a lot of history seen from this painting. Although this piece of art is not a record of history in the sense of a formal written record, it is nevertheless a piece of history that is a record in the visual sense. One that is historically significant arguable fromits ability to evoke emotion because of what it represented to persons at a certain time in history.  From the persons in the paintings to the building in the background of it, it shows great power and status, from the status of the persons within the painting to the building which is the Colwick Hall building, which has been even to this day a pillar of strength in its history for the family that owns it.

It could be questioned whether it is justified foronethink of the painting as one that emits a sense of ownership, power, structure and at the same time beauty. The mere fact that this piece of art work is “a piece of art work”, opens the door way for objective criticism for or against it.  Arguably, thereisthoughtthatviews on European artis different in based on the way they were looked at in the past and the way they are viewed today. Where the artist are not alive to provide meaning behind a piece of art, it opens a door for multiple interpretation. It can be said, that there is a much greater appreciation for art and artist of the past based on the acknowledgement of their work such as Van Gogh which has his art in a Museum in Amsterdam. One can arguably link the design of the museum to the artwork it holds, in the sense that, the artworks are valuably so the place that house it must present itself as a place of importance but must also create safe environment for the art itself.

When viewing a painting, consideringeverydetail,you must be keen to step into the shoes of the muse to evenbeginto visualize everything fromamoreforeignandunbiasedperspective. If done correctly, an understanding of place and time can begin to take place. A sense of inquisitiveness will begin to unfold towards progression and questionable evolution of what has taken place. For instance, the indulgence ofa portrait painting ormostartforthatmatterwas one that was the luxury of only patrons of the arts comparedtopresenttimeswhereyour electronic device and orgraphic software allows accessibility to any and everyone who has artistic interests.

Mrs. Musters as Hebe, Cupbearer to the Gods, 1782 by Sir Joshua Reynolds

When looking at the ” John And Sophia Musters Riding At Colwick Hall”. It can questionably invoke a sense to power or pride within a person , such a person may be a designer, who is then influenced by this feeling to recreate it.This same can be said for a painting  of Sophia Musters “Mrs. Musters as Hebe, Cupbearer to the Gods, 1782” which perhaps evoke emotion and show vulnerability at the same time but also demonstrate power and status, which then relates to the “Mr and Mrs Musters” painting which demonstrates this by both of them riding on horses, in attire that were not of low status persons. All of this plays a art in influencing a designer to create something new.

The Assembly at Wanstead House. 1728-1731,William Hogarth Philadelphia Museum of Art

The 17thCentury being the age or reason but most known as the “Enlightenment Period” was a time when humankind attempted to understand its place and reason for its being in the world through scientific reasoning. In this time, the arts became popular in helping establish this, from literature, to music and painting commissions for the church as well. Artists often expressed realism within these paintings through political, religious and social aspects. Such can be seen in paintings done by William Hogarth’s street scenes of London.

So it comes back to the relevance of all this for present designers. As designers, the goal is to create designs that are impactful, that evokes emotions, create discussion between scholars. It can be looked at from that point of view or maybe the point is to use what is known to create progression , and using what is known as fundamental principles, in other words, building blocks.

Perhaps another thought can presented in this, as using paintings, historical paintings, as precedents for new designs. Many of today’s great architecture are without or with limited written historical text. A painting may serve as a replacement or addition to historical text. Within architecture, a more practical field, physical resources would prove to be more effective rather than theoretical. This allows a better understand in terms of scales, colour and presence. With paintings that date back from periods of the enlightenment era, it helps even more because it was the time where perspective within paintings began to be more developed and understood because of the technical aspects that begin to merge with this profession in this time.



Artworks are very influential to designers today. It be used as precedents for design considerations, with discretion. But the task comes in finding the way in which that art piece links with what is being proposed. But I say this with caution, that with consideration of art piece as relevance, it cannot be allowed to overwhelm aspects of designs, and at the same time do not let it limit it as well. With this being said, do not let this piece of writing limit you to only using artwork with a historical essence, as there are modern artwork that can indeed help with designs, with consideration for colour, positive and negative space.

Constructivism art can be used as an example. And from this, one can begin to see how a topic on the relevance of a piece of art work can open a broader spectrum for discussion on other topics interrelating to each other which in turn helps a designer to create something new and different.


Bergers, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing, London;Harmondsworth: British Broadcasting Corporation.

Campbell, H.B. (1850) ‘Biographical Memoir of the late John Musters’, in Campbell, H.B. Biographical Memoir of the late John Musters, New Sporting Magazine.

The University of Nottingham Manuscripts and Special Collections, [Online], Available: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/collectionsindepth/family/chaworth-mustersofannesley/chaworth-mustersfamilyhistory.aspx[5 December 2017].



John And Sophia Musters Riding At Colwick Hall, 1777, George Stubbs.

Mrs. Musters as Hebe, Cupbearer to the Gods, 1782 by Sir Joshua Reynolds

The Assembly at Wanstead House. 1728-1731, William Hogarth

Philadelphia Museum of Art


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