Robert Bakewell

Image credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Often called the 'father of animal husbandry', Bakewell introduced stockbreeding methods that transformed the quality of Britain's cattle, horses and sheep. To him a sheep was a 'machine for turning grass into mutton' and through his breeding experiments he doubled the meat production of his herds. Bakewell's lessons in breeding were widely copied by other agricultural improvers striving for greater productivity to match the rising demand of a growing and increasingly industrialised population. Bakewell is shown here with his animals, in a portrait by a local Leicestershire artist, as a living advertisement for his own methods. In his obituary the Gentleman's Magazine observed that though 'rather inclined to corpulence – his countenance bespoke intelligence, activity and a high degree of benevolence.

National Portrait Gallery, London



Robert Bakewell




oil on canvas


H 71 x W 91 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased, 1987

Work type



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