William Hogarth’s paintings of London are brilliant social observations that are filled with biting satire and moralistic messages for those who’ve chosen a debauched lifestyle. But was Hogarth alone or did he have contemporaries in other major Western European cities -- Paris, Amsterdam and Venice?
Tate Britain has taken artists like Hogarth who are most associated with a particular city and hung them next to one another so we can compare and contrast to see if the likes of Paris had their own Hogarth.
The curatorial theme is loose at best as while a painter such as Marco Ricci was an equally astute observer and painter of the opera in Italy as Hogarth captured London theatre scenes, and Etienne Jeurat’s Parisian street scenes can be seen as similar to Hogarth’s London equivalents, neither laced their paintings with incisive social commentary like Hogarth was able to and so feel like pale comparators. Less European Hogarths, more no-garths.
The one painter, aside from Hogarth, who truly catches the eye is Giuseppe Maria Crespi - a woman searching within her clothing for the flea that just bit her may be an everyday occurrence, but the way he has captured the light and shadow in a dimly lit room is stunning and has a touch of Rembrandt about it.
The most interesting ties to Hogarth are when his works are replicated such as a ceramic plate from Germany showing a scene from his moral tale ‘a harlot’s progress’, or a Chinese bowl with Hogarth’s version of men at various stages of intoxication next to a punch bowl painted on to it, while the Chinese men on the opposite side are shown to be far more refined than their British counterparts.
One issue that can’t be side-stepped is that the works on display here do show black persons as slaves and scenes of sexual aggression towards women. Tate has done the right thing by not shying away from it and invited diverse voices to provide their interpretations and concerns with these racist and dehumanising representations. It’s an approach that’s more thorough than we’ve seen in previous shows and it’s a welcome addition.
Visitors will flock to this show because they want to see works by William Hogarth and they won’t be disappointed as there are plenty on display -- including many I hadn’t seen before, including a calamitous depiction of Southwark Fair as a balcony collapses and its inhabitants are sent flying.
Hogarth is the true star of the show here and the fact that his European contemporaries can’t really compete is simply testament to the fantastic painter and observer of human behaviour that he was.
Hogarth and Europe at Tate Britain. 3 November - 20 March 2022
|What||Hogarth and Europe, Tate Britain review|
|Where||Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Pimlico (underground)|
03 Nov 21 – 20 Mar 22, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information|