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William Hogarth died 251 years ago today

October 25, 2015



When we try to visualise the first half of the eighteenth-century, it’s William Hogarth that starts painting pictures inside our heads.  Peter Brook’s little known movie of the The Beggar’s Opera (which offers the only occasion on which Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Williams shared screen time) is designed as successive frames of William Hogarth all glued together.

Hogarth is full of contradictions.   He would have loved to be remembered for his “proper” paintings and of course for his formal work on aesthetics The Analysis of Beauty (1753) which asserted a kind of elongated letter “S” as the norm of all definitions of beauty.  Much mocked in its day, it did inform Edmund Burke’s rather more influential Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757/9) in useful ways.  And I am fond of the unfinished “Shrimp Girl”


A painting like this could not have been…

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