This blog has gone all Hogarthian of late. And with good reason. One of the greatest of all Londoners, we commemorate the 250th anniversary of his death, which occurred on the evening of 25/26 October, 1764 at his town house in Leicester Fields.
The Cartoon Museum (one of our favourites) gets into the spirit of things with this exhibition which opens today. It features 50 engravings covering a period of over 40 years.
All our favourites are there, as you’d expect: Gin Lane, Beer Street, Rake’s Progress and so on. You also get the opportunity to check out lesser known items, such as Four Times of Day, which I particularly enjoyed, and very early stuff like The South Sea Bubble from 1721, astounding work from the 24 year old engraver. I was very happy also to see the judges and their wigs, an image guaranteed to make you smile every time.
When viewing Hogarth’s work, we tend to focus – as we are supposed to – on the people: 18C Londoners (mainly) in all their appallingness. What this show does is to point out the actual locations where all the action takes place, something most of us perhaps don’t think about that much. In some cases it’s obvious, such as the Tyburn gallows featuring the Idle ‘Prentice. Other places less so, Cheapside for the Industrious ‘Prentice, a thoroughfare which also features in The Harlot’s Progress. The South Sea Bubble, mentioned above, is at the foot of the Monument. I always thought the March to Finchley (a personal favourite: the original painting is in the Foundling Museum) was in Finchley. Not so: it is set in Tottenham Court Road. There is also Covent Garden, St James’s, Charing Cross, Sadler’s Wells, St Giles (of course), and more.
So a romp through the streets of London with William Hogarth. It’s an angle which works splendidly in this thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable exhibition. Many of the pieces on show are loaned by the excellent William Hogarth Trust, one of the show’s sponsors, also responsible for Hogarth’s House in Chiswick, which I urge you to visit: it’s free.
Hogarth’s London runs from 22 October to 18 January 2015 at the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street (very close to the British Museum). It’s free with your entry ticket of £7. Art Fund Members free. London Historians Members £1 discount. No, they don’t give you a pound if you belong to both.
Finally, here’s a suggestion for you to celebrate William Hogarth this Saturday. First visit this exhibition at the Cartoon Museum. Then jump on the Tube to Turnham Green. Walk past Hogarth’s statue on Chiswick High Road and doff your hat, metephorically if necessary. Continue on to Hogarth’s House (open 12:00 – 17:00), about a 15 minute walk and check out the man’s “country” home where he lived for the last 15 years of his life. Gape at the strange Hogarth flyover as you pass by! Expore the house and enjoy The Small Self as mentioned in the previous blog post by Val Bott. Then have a bite in one of Chiswick’s many pubs and restaurants and return to St Nicholas Church (around the corner from Hogarth’s House) for 18:45 for wreath-laying at the Hogarth family tomb and a celebration of Hogarth’s life, featuring period music by Handel, Arne and others, including songs and ballads, the Beggar’s Opera etc. £10 entry. All details here.