Tate Britain presents a major exhibition entitled Hogarth and Europe which explores the satirical depictions of 18th century England by William Hogarth (1697-1764). The exhibition places Hogarth in his historical context by comparisons with continental contemporaries.
The exhibition features many of Hogarth’s best-known paintings and prints, such as Marriage A-la-Mode 1743, The Gate of Calais 1748 and Gin Lane 1751, alongside works by famous European artists, including Jean-Siméon Chardin in Paris, Pietro Longhi in Venice, and Cornelis Troost in Amsterdam.
The exhibition features over 60 of Hogarth’s works, brought together from private and public collections around Europe and North America. Hogarth more than anyone caught the spirit of the age with his depictions of the enormous contrast of luxury and poverty.
Hogarth was influenced by 17th century Italian and Dutch paintings, however unlike many of his influences, he began to show the seedy and immoral side of urban life. In the 1730s he began his ‘modern moral series’: narratives charting the rise and fall of everyday characters corrupted by immorality and vice. Hogarth and Europe showcases these celebrated series, including A Rake’s Progress 1734.
The exhibition illustrates that cities became the background to enormous change all across Europe, showing the bustling London streets of Hogarth’s Southwark Fair 1733 and The March of the Guards to Finchley 1749-50 together with depictions of Étienne Jeaurat’s Paris and Longhi’s Venice.
Artists began to ply there trade in different countries, the exhibition features two pictures of London life by Canaletto.
The 18th century was a time of considerable turmoil in Europe, the old order was beginning to break down and opportunity and innovation attracted many into the cities. Hogarth casts his net wide and criticises the rich and the poor. The new heights of luxury emerged with extreme poverty in cities laid bare the great inequalities. European countries were not only exploiting their own populations but exploited colonies overseas.
Against the backdrop of this changing world, artists like Hogarth pioneered a new painting of modern life, revealing the pleasures and dangers of this brave new world. Hogarth was not only a moralist but also an entrepreneur making a fortune from his paintings and prints.
The 18th century also saw greater informality in portraiture, the exhibition ends in a room focusing on such pictures, including David Garrick with his Wife c.1757-64, Miss Mary Edwards 1742, a painting not seen in the UK for over a century. Other highlights include paintings of his sisters Mary and Anne Hogarth, as well as Heads of Six of Hogarth’s Servants c.1750-55.
This fascinating exhibition places Hogarth in an international context and explores the artist’s often contradictory career. It has always been difficult to pigeon hole Hogarth, his interest in morals was obvious, yet he seemed to enjoy his celebrity status as a bawdy satirist. He was not a reformer because he was often quite conservative in his views. In many ways, Hogarth reflected the age he lived in which looked to the past but enjoyed the many benefits and pleasures of the chaotic new world.
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here
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