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Review: Hogarth Place and Progress

First Blake at Tate Britain, and now this. We Londoners are being spoilt rotten with these two simultaneously-running exhibitions featuring our most beloved native artists.

Thanks to its canny eponymous benefactor, Sir John Soane’s Museum is already the lucky owner of two of William Hogarth’s (1697 – 1764) best-known series: The Rake’s Progress (1732) and the four Humours of an Election (1754-55). The latter remain in situ in their ground floor home attached to the famous swinging panels which usually open out to reveal Rake’s Progress on the reverse sides. However,  The Rake’s Progress have been removed and added to the main exhibition space of this show. In addition we are treated to Marriage A-la-Mode (1743) from the National Gallery. Hence, all of Hogarth’s painted series in the same building together at the same time! In the room with Marriage A-la-Mode, the museum has borrowed three surviving oil sketches of Happy Marriage one of which gives us the gawky dancers to which the artist later returned in hilarious engravings on the subject, notably an illustration in Analysis of Beauty

The Dance (The Happy Marriage ?VI: The Country Dance) circa 1745 by William Hogarth 1697-1764

Happy Marriage VI: The Country Dance. Tate.

V0049213 A country dance in a long hall; the elegance of the couple o

Country Dancers in a Long Hall (detail, from Analysis of Beauty)

But I digress. Complementing these Hogarth masterpieces are many of his most famous engravings, most of which from the private collection of Andrew Edmunds: A Harlot’s Progress (1734); Industry and Idleness (1747); The Four Times of Day (1736-37); The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751); and (of course!) Beer Street and Gin Lane (both 1751).

idle prentice 11

The Idle ‘Prentice approaching the gallows at Tyburn.

industrial prentice 12

The Industrious ‘Prentice becomes Lord Mayor of London.

The name, or theme, of this marvellous exhibition – like Hogarth himself – is plain-dealing: ‘Progress’ – lifted from the harlot and the rake but applying to all his morality series; and ‘Place’ – London, of course, but using the extensive recent research which has precisely pinpointed the locations in most of the artist’s individual compositions. Here the curators have grouped the various series logically to contrast or complement one another.  One could argue, of course, that Hogarth’s subject matter is so rich that any pairings would do the trick. The main thing is, it works: how could it not?

Thought-provoking, yes. The joy of this show, though, is the opportunity to examine a large body of the artist’s work at very close quarters. An obvious thing to say, perhaps, but this is more important with Hogarth than probably any other artist. The detail he put into his compositions is quite phenomenal; if there’s another gag or pithy aphorism to squeeze in, in it goes. For example, there are tiny bits of writing all over the place that one would simply not pick up even in the highest-quality book. This is especially true of the paintings. A detail that I hadn’t noticed before and which pleased me in particular was Hogarth’s depiction of old London Bridge in all its dilapidated and rickety glory. We view it through the window in Marriage A-la-mode VI: The Lady’s Death. This will have been just 15 years before all the buildings on the bridge were finally demolished.

marriage a la mode vi

Marriage A-la-mode: The Lady’s Death. National Gallery London.

malmVI_detail

This exhibition has been curated with a great deal of thought, yet commendable lightness of touch. Our congratulations to the museum and gratitude to all the lenders. The show is on for just three months; it is a treat and a joy you must not miss.

Hogarth Place and Progress runs at Sir John Soane’s Museum from 9 October 2019 until 5 January 2020. Free entry by timed booking required.

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A guest post by LH Member Julian Woodford.
Review: Orphans of Empire by Helen Berry.

orphans of empireThe spirit of William Hogarth runs vividly through Orphans of Empire, Professor Helen Berry’s latest book, which explores the story of what happened to the orphaned or abandoned children of London’s Foundling Hospital. Before reading it, I knew that the hospital was the brainchild of the shipwright, sea captain and philanthropist Thomas Coram. I knew too from Jenny Uglow’s excellent biography of Hogarth that the artist had been Coram’s friend and an enthusiastic and active patron of the hospital. But I hadn’t realised just how firmly the Foundling Hospital story was seated in Hogarthian London until I read Berry’s fascinating account, which draws heavily on Hogarth’s work for its illustrations and for two of its principal chapter headings.

I am somewhat red-faced to admit that I had never managed to visit the Foundling Museum, tucked in the north-east corner of Bloomsbury’s Brunswick Square, next door to Virginia Woolf’s former residence and adjacent to the former site of Coram’s hospital. So it was a treat to follow Helen Berry’s directions, taking the road less travelled by the throngs of British Museum or Covent Garden-bound tourists leaving the Underground at Russell Square and instead heading, via Brunswick Square and its giant plane tree, to Coram’s Fields. The Foundling Museum, with its poignant collection of foundling tokens and its impressive recreation of the hospital’s Court Room, (not to mention several stunning Hogarth originals, including Thomas Coram’s lifesize portrait and ‘The March to Finchley’) is a humbling yet hugely rewarding experience, but I can state wholeheartedly that its enjoyment is magnified several-fold by the contemporaneous reading of Professor Berry’s book.

Berry’s account interweaves two themes. She is not the first historian to articulate the broad general history of Thomas Coram and his Foundling Hospital in the context of the eighteenth-century charitable movement among London’s governing elite. But she has broken new ground in exploring the rich seam of the Foundling Hospital archive (seventeen double-decker buses-worth of shelving, as Berry points out). This has enabled her to supplement the institutional story with snippets from the remarkable diary of George King, a foundling who went on to experience life as an apprentice in the City of London before running away to sea, fighting at Trafalgar and teaching in South Carolina before ending his days as he had begun them, institutionalised in London as a Naval Pensioner and as clerk to the Greenwich Hospital. As Berry touchingly puts it, the ‘single precious thread’ of King’s diary, punctuated by the ‘smaller broken whispers’ of other former foundlings, has allowed her to illuminate how Britain’s imperial progress shaped the fates of some of the poorest in society.

Orphans of Empire’s many highlights include Berry’s moving and vivid description of the grief of young mothers as they handed over their new-born babies to the hospital, almost certainly never to see them again. Throughout the book, Berry knits together a most interesting recap of the persistent central role played by the orphan/foundling in myth and literature, from Moses to Romulus and Remus, Fielding’s Tom Jones and Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Her statistical analysis hammers home the sheer scale of failure of eighteenth-century society and parochial government to provide social support for children. Survivors like George King were lucky: two-thirds of the almost 15,000 children admitted to the hospital between 1756-1760 died while in its care, a mortality rate that sometimes rose to as high as 90%. And I was intrigued to learn that several of the hospital’s main benefactors, including Thomas Coram and Hogarth themselves, along with Georg Friedrich Handel, were each themselves childless and that this lack may have been a driving force of their philanthropy.

My only disappointment in this otherwise excellent book is some careless editing. I became confused by the interchangeable use of the terms ‘General Reception’ and ‘General Admission’ (compounded by distinct index entries) to describe the failed experiment in 1756-1760 when parliamentary funding led to the hospital becoming a national, rather than just a London-based, concern and which led to an explosion in demand that almost overwhelmed the institution’s ability to cope. In a similar vein, the statistical analysis of admission numbers and mortality could have been presented more coherently in a single place instead of being scattered throughout, with some resulting unnoticed editorial duplication (pages 58, 97).

This small gripe is not enough to spoil an enlightening account of one of the peripheral but important byways of Britain’s imperial history. Helen Berry’s use of detailed archival research to amplify and vivify the tale of a famous London institution is instructive and exemplary. Orphans of Empire is a super book, nicely produced, with good black & white illustrations, clear endnotes and indexing, and I recommend it to all London Historians.

Orphans of Empire: The Fate of London’s Foundlings. By HELEN BERRY. pp. xv + 364 + 20 illustrations within text, indexed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. £20.00, but available for less. ISBN 978-0-19-875848-8. Hardback. Published 11 April.

This book is London Historians members’ book competition for March 2019.


The Foundling Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, admission £10 for adults.


Julian Woodford is a historian and author of The Boss of Bethnal Green, Joseph Merceron the Godfather of Regency London. @HistoryLondon

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Hogarth by Roubillac, NPG.

Hogarth by Roubillac, NPG.

… or pleasing things to know about the great London artist.

I’m sure that like me, you hold Hogarth as one of your favourite Londoners. Every year we remember him often, but especially on his birthday, 10 November (1697) and the day he passed away – today, 26 October (1764). Here’s a little crib sheet of Hogarthiana.

  1. Although of humble beginnings in Smithfield, Hogarth lived to become Sergeant Painter to the King.
  2. Like Dickens, his father went to debtors prison, having gone bust running a coffee house where only Latin was permitted to be spoken. It was in St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell.
  3. Even by the standard of the day, Hogarth was a shortarse, standing only five foot tall at the most.
  4. His father-in-law was Sir James Thornhill, celebrated in his day, but less well known now. Thornhill painted the inside of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Painted Hall in Greenwich, and the best known life portrait of notorious prison escapee, Jack Sheppard.
  5. Hogarth was a key figure in the foundation of copyright under the law, thanks to his lobbying for the Engravers’ Copyright Act in 1735 (aka “Hogarth’s Act”), which, with subsequent variations, still protects musicians, artists and other creative professionals to this day.
  6. Hogarth was a founding governor and great supporter of Captain Coram’s Foundling Hospital. He and his wife Jane supervised wet nurseries near their home in Chiswick for babies from the institution. The couple never had children of their own.
  7. Hogarth, having been criticised by charismatic political firebrand John Wilkes, created arguably the best-known image of the politician, a vicious caricature.
  8. The Hogarth family tomb in Chiswick was endowed by the actor David Garrick, a great friend of his.
  9. Hogarth ordered a trade card for his pug, Trump, from a printer at one of the Thames ice fairs.
  10. On his only foray beyond these shores, Hogarth got arrested in Calais in 1748 – ostensibly for spying. This didn’t help to disabuse his jaundiced view of foreigners and their ways.

There are, of course, many many other pleasing Hogarth things. Please add your own in the Comments.

William Hogarth on Wikipedia.
William Hogarth Trust.

St John's Gate, Clerkenwell, site of Hogarth Senior's ill-conceived coffee house.

St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, site of Hogarth Senior’s ill-conceived coffee house.

Hogarth's House, Chiswick. The artist's country home 1749 until his death.

Hogarth’s House, Chiswick. The artist’s country home 1749 until his death.

Hogarth takes a pop at John Wilkes.

Hogarth takes a pop at John Wilkes.

Hogarth family tomb. St Nicholas churchyard, Chiswick. 2014 on the 300th anniversary of his death.

Hogarth family tomb. St Nicholas churchyard, Chiswick. 2014 on the 250th anniversary of his death.

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A guest post by London Historians Member, Val Bott.

the painter and his pug by william hogarthWilliam Hogarth died 250 years ago on 26 October 1764. He spent Thursday, 24 October working on his engraving plate of The Bench at Chiswick but, too unwell to work on the 25th, he was taken to his town house in Leicester Fields while his wife remained at Chiswick. On going to bed, he was taken suddenly very ill and died a couple of hours later in the arms of his wife’s cousin, Mary Lewis, who had helped run the print business for years. He was buried at St Nicholas Church by the Thames at Chiswick, where later a fine memorial was erected with an epitaph by David Garrick.

That week a piece in the the London Evening Post commented that in Hogarth were happily united ‘the utmost force of human genius, an incomparable understanding, an inflexible integrity and a most benevolent heart. No man was better acquainted with the human passions, nor endeavoured to make them more subservient to the reformation of the world than this inimitable artist. His works will continue to be held in the highest estimation, so long as sense, genius and virtue shall remain among us’.

Hogarth's tomb in St Nicholas Churchyard, Chiswick, on the banks of the Thames.

Hogarth’s tomb in St Nicholas churchyard, Chiswick, on the banks of the Thames.

Hogarth was a Londoner through and through, depicting daily life in clear reality and with affection, while mocking those of whom he disapproved. A brilliant engraver and a fine self-taught painter, he produced memorable images which we love today. With an astute business sense he sold his prints by subscription and protected them from piracy through his successful campaign for the first artists’ Copyright Act. He was a generous man and his love for animals and children is evident in his work. A philanthropist, he was a governor of the Foundling Hospital, he oversaw the wet-nurses who cared for foundling babies in Chiswick and, with his wife Jane, fostered foundling children. When financially secure he acquired his much-loved second home a Chiswick which is now a museum about the Hogarths, their Chiswick friends and neighbours, and other past residents of the house. The walls are hung with his most important prints, depicting London as the backdrop to his famous series of modern moral subjects, but also at the theatre, in the crowd at Southwark Fair, in the streets in Four Times of Day.

Hogarth's House

Hogarth’s House.

The William Hogarth Trust has worked with Hogarth’s House this year to produce a new exhibition, The Small Self, which has just opened. Supported by a grant from the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, it was devised by trustees Chrissy Blake and Jason Bowyer, who sent out sixty foot-square artists’ boards with an invitation to use these to submit a self portrait in homage to Hogarth. Fifty-three self-portraits have arrived, from the Trust’s patron, Sir Peter Blake, Royal Academicians William Bowyer, Anthony Green, Ken Howard and Humphrey Ocean, cartoonists Steve Bell and Martin Rowson, designers Cath Kidston and Toni Marshall, writers such as Jaqueline Wilson and Mike McCartney, performers including Harry Hill, Holly Johnson, Jim Moir and Joanna Lumley and members of the New English Art Club. This exhibition is testimony to a strong continuing enthusiasm for Hogarth; a beautiful little catalogue illustrating them all is on sale at £6.95.

Self portraits. Sir Peter Hall and Bowyer.

Self portraits. Sir Peter Blake and Jason Bowyer.

On the evening of 25 October the Trust and the Friends of St Nicholas will be mounting a special commemoration at Chiswick’s St Nicholas Church. Ars Eloquentiae will perform music Hogarth would have known (with some audience participation!) and Rosalind Knight, Lars Tharp and others will be reading 18th century texts to celebrate Hogarth’s life and work. Admission is £10, refreshments will be available and there will be a souvenir programme on sale. The event is supported by the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, Hounslow Council and Fleet Tutors.

On 22 October The Cartoon Museum opens Hogarth’s London, a must for London Historians. It draws together a range of prints (including a number on loan from Hogarth’s House) to celebrate his love of the capital city and to reveal the vitality and the suffering of life here 250 years ago.

The Small Self continues until 11 January 2015, 12 noon to 17.00 Tuesday to Sunday, admission free.
Hogarth’s London continues until 18 January 2015, 10.30 to 17.30 Monday to Saturday, Sunday 12 noon to 17.30, at 35 Little Russell St, London WC1A 2HH. There is an admission charge – full details at cartoonmuseum.org.

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In about an hour from now, Hogarth’s House will once again be open to the public.  Wonderful timing for the great man’s birthday this Thursday. After a total refurbishment that dragged on for three years because of serious fire damage in October 2009, the 1715 Grade 1 listed country retreat opens its doors to us at last. Hogarth lived in the place with his wife Jane from 1749 until his death in 1764. In those days the building was surrounded by fields. Today it goes largely unnoticed as thousands of cars zoom past each day on the A4 dual-carriageway.

Although William Hogarth extended the house to include a studio, its main function was a country retreat: he continued to do most of his work and business at his town house in what is now Leicester Square. The Hogarths made their home available as a wet nursery for foundlings left at Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, an institution which Hogarth actively supported. [I haven’t got this quite right: please read Val Bott’s detailed comment]

The refurbishment project has been led by Val Bott, a distinguished local historian and museum consultant who is a trustee of the William Hogarth Trust. We’re proud also to have Val as a member of London Historians. She has been in charge of the decor and all new display materials which are substantial compared to previously. There is a section which features other owners and residents of the house over the years, something which was not really addressed prior to the restoration.

Here is a picture I took last Tuesday, when everywhere was a maelstrom of last-minute preparations. I shall visit during this week and add some interior shots.

hogarth's house chiswick

9 November: And here they are. Mostly uncaptioned, I think they’re kind of self-explanatory to give you a flavour of the place and also to encourage you to go yourself and have a look! My overall impression: fabulous!

hogarth house chiswick

Here is Hogarth's statue (2001) in Chiswick High Road and the sculptor's maquette on which it was based. I love marrying up statues and their maquettes!

hogarth house chiswick

hogarth house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswick

There are some more pictures on the History Today web site, here.

The house is free to visit and will be open every day except Mondays, from noon to 5pm. The best way to visit the house is to take the Tube to Turnham Green. Walk up Turnham Green Terrace and check out the 2001 statue of Hogarth and his pug on Chiswick High Road. From there it’s a 10-15 minute walk (best to use Devonshire Road, I reckon) to the house.

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Photo of Hogarth's House, which is on the A4 r...

Image via Wikipedia

This evening I attended my first meeting of my local society, the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society. They very kindly and unexpectedly invited me to talk briefly about London Historians. This was rather unnerving, public speaking not being my strong suit, but I think I survived on sheer enthusiasm and the pint of London Pride I had just consumed.

Turnout was strong, at least 50 I estimate, lovely people all. Tonight the talk was by John Collins, Hogarth’s House Outreach Officer, who told us how the renovation was coming along and that this building – dear to the heart of many local denizens – would be reopening late next Spring, with a following wind. I have visited the house several times over the years and would recommend it to all Londoners with the slightest interest in British art and the 18th century generally. Chiswick House is right next door, as is the famous Griffin Brewery of Fullers. What’s not to like?

All in all, a thoroughly positive experience, and I only regret not joining my local society earlier. I’d encourage you to do likewise. Check out our local groups page here. London Historians will give a discount on our membership equivalent to your local society subscription up to a value of £10. That’s right, we’ll pay for your local society sub!

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