Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Rise of the British School

 William Hogarth, Self Portrait with Pug, 1745
Hogarth never went to Italy and although a learned man he just wasn't interested in the whole Italian Grand Manner thing. He is portraying himself as pugnacious here. The books he is leaning on are by Shakespeare, Milton and Swift just incase we couldn't tell he was an intelligent man. He strived to rise the British School up to the prestige of the Italian and French Schools.

Analysis of Beauty, Plate 1, 1753
He believed in making his art theory as accessible as possible. Therefore, he drew out a diagram of what he believed to be the perfect portrayal of beauty in pictorial terms instead of writing it in posh nonsense. He believed that he'd figured out a unique empirical perspective, whereby the more curvacious something is, the more beautiful. Hence the pictures of squiggly lines and curvy things painted around the perimiter.

The following three pictures are part of Hogarth's 6 piece project whereby he satirises upper-class life:

Marriage a la Mode: 1: The Marriage Settlement
This shows the arrangement of a marriage for money between the daughter of a merchant and the son of an earl. The earl is making arrangements at the table on how to get construction on his house back underway (through the window). All the while, the lawyer is already moving in on the unhappy woman whose marriage was arranged.

2: The Tete a Tete
This shows the troubles the arranged pair have as a married couple. The dog is pulling a woman's garment out of the blokes pocket meanwhile the wife has her legs wide open which would suggest she's been unfaithful too. The man's sword is broken suggesting he's gotten very drunk and got into a fight. The butler is looking uneasy with a pile of unpaid bills in his hand.

6: The Lady's Death, 
Fast forwarding to the end, after lots of affairs and the death of her husband by her lover, the woman kills herself because that very lover has been sentenced to death. The lady's child is leaning up to kiss her, but the fate of the child is sealed in the marks on his leg which would suggest that he is to inherit the same life as his mother (in both literal - disease, syphillis - terms and symbolic -adultery, misery- terms. In terms of style, Hogarth aimed to be inbetween the French and Dutch (the former considered too polite and the latter too vulgar).

Calais Gate, 1748
This is a bit of a dig at the absolute monarchy in force in France during this time (Louis XV). It was during his second visit to France that he was arrested for sketching this gate below. He's drawn scrawny skinny little soldiers and the only man with any meat on him is the friar - a comment on the catholicism of the country perhaps - there is a big bit of meat on it's way to the English Inn which is a reflection of the alternate name for the piece: Oh, I the Roast Beef of Old England. The name derives from an old song which represents the power and wealth of England. Furthermore, the crow at the top of the bridge represents the Jacobites -Scotsmen who fled to France after a failed rebellion in '45 - which only helps strengthen the connotations of the song the piece is named after.

The Graham Children, 1742
Hogarth was barely called in for portraits because he was a piss-taker. Some think that the fact that the boy is so amused by the scared bird means he's a sadist. I don't think so. It's just playful, as children are.

Captain Thomas Coram, 1740
Coram established the Foundling Hospital for unwanted children in 1742-45. Hogarth must have been a bit of a humanist because he has portrayed Coram in a very flattering way. He's linked him to the Grand-Style which is associated with very intelligent man. The Doric pillar behind him, the globe and pieces of a geometry set on his table is clearly making him seem like a clever bloke. Although, as said before, Hogarth wasn't too keen on the Grand Style/Tour/Taste however you want to put it. Therefore, he's given Coram the intellectual attributes of one of these men but gave him a sense of sincerity too. He's paintied Coram without his wig, and in a fairly casual pose with a sense of humanity about him. He tans like the rest of us! look at his (usually covered) forehead in comparison to the rest of his face.

Gin Lane and Beer Street Engravings 1751
Gin was, according to my lecturer, the 18th century equivalent to crack, haha. You'd have to get the worlds biggest reproduction of this image to see which engraving (they are two separate ones) is Gin Lane and which is Beer Street. Although you can't see for yourself take my word for it that the right is Gin Lane and the left is Beer Street. The idea is that Beer Street is more prosperous and in better condition because they're not all shoving crack down their neck. Notice the pawnbrokers sign is broken in Beer Street because noone needs to take out loans! Oh and, if you drink gin, you drop your kid apparently!

Joseph Wright of Derby, a Philosopher Giving that Lecture on the Orrery, in Which a Lamp is put in Place of the Sun, 1760's
This man was very succesful in the first exhibitions of the 1760's and 70's in London. Due to Enlightenment thought I imagine everyone was very excited about experiments and philosophy:
"Nature, and nature's laws lay hid in night. God said, 'Let Newton be!' and all was light"

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768
Serious and modern subject, far more serious that Hogarth. Shows women engaging in conversation (flirting - or about the experiment? who knows) and a young girl looking on.  The idea that all the family could now enjoy experiments because of the enlightenment, yay.

Thomas Gainsborough, Mr and Mrs Andrews, 1750
The idea of a group portrait in England was formed in the 18th century. It has definite Rococo influences in its softness (and the Rococo chair they're sitting on!).

Giovanna Baccelli, 1782
She was a dancer and is shown as such. Light and graceful as if she was part of the scenery. There is a certain Rococo softness to this.

Mr and Mrs William Hallett, 1785
He's gone all out here and Grand-Style on us. Although influenced by Reynolds, he's done it a la Fragonard (almost identical palette to The Swing). Therefore, quite Rococo, again.

Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse, 1783
For some reason when I first saw this I must have hated it because all I have written is 'Joshuas typical pretentious shit' although looking at it now I like it a lot. The figures behind her are terror and pity. Looks like one of Michelangelo's Sybbils from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I think in the last few pictures you notice Rococo sneaking it's way into English painting.

Self Portrait, 1779-80
A self portrait as 'Doctor of Civil Law', learned. He saw Hogarth as OK but nothing special because he wasn't as classical enough in his subjects. He has very modestly painted a bust of Michelangelo Buonarotti's head bowing down to him!

Captain the Honourable Augustus Keppel, 1753

Colonel Tarleton, 1782
I can't be the only one who noticed that the poses have gradually gotten more homoerotic over the years? ha check out the bend in the knee as he gets his sword out (ha) (although the top pose would also be considered 'unmanly' by today's standards).

Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces, 1765
Just another example of his 'pretentious shit' (although I do actually REALLY like the Mrs Siddons one). He had the cheek to charge twice as much as Gainsborough. It's no wonder the Pre-Raphaelites called him 'Sir Sloshua' (looky here).

Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen, 1773
Hymen is the Roman god of marriage. I did not know that either and was ready to go off on a whole other tangent. But luckily not.

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