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Saturday, 30 April 2016

Painting of the Month (61) April 2016: Wliiliam Hogarth

This painting is a part of William Hogarth's The Humours of an Election series. His paintings are still very popular today because many of the iniquities he portrayed can still be seen and felt around us.
Canvassing for Votes, William Hogarth, 1754, The Sir John Soane Museum, London
The series of four oil paintings and some etchings is based on an election in Oxfordshire, England in 1754. The three characters in the central foreground represent the two candidates covertly trying to bribe the innkeeper. Only property-owners could vote at that time. 
Peering out from the doorway on the left is a soldier whose purpose is to represent uncorrupted patriotism. In front of him the British lion is devouring the fleur-de-lis of France. At the table on the right two old men, possibly sailors, are arguing about the Battle of Portobello in which the British fought the Spanish in Panama.
In the background a violent mob from one party are trying to destroy the headquarters of their rivals. A humorous note is the man sawing off the pub-sign unaware that he will fall when it does! Hogarth was an adequate and competent artist but this painting was made for satirical purposes exposing bribery & corruption and mob violence.
This series of oil paintings are on a massive scale, measuring five by seven feet; this really elevates them to the genre of 'History Painting'.
Listening to the British folk-singing duo, the formerly married couple, Richard and Linda Thompson's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. Listen here.


David said...

HI bazza,
I really like Hogarth, more for the social satire than the artistry, and it's amazing just how relevant his work remains. To use one current example, Stoke-on-Trent under Tory governance and the strict rules of austerity looks more and more like "Gin Lane" every day, while I'm sure that your own environs are more reminiscent of "Beer Street"!
Thanks for another enlightening post, bazza.
Best Wishes,

bazza said...

Hi David. Well maybe my home is on the way to Beer Street! I am obviously in agreement with your comment about Hogarth. Stoke-on-Trent appears to be very posh! Regards, Barry

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - me too I think Hogarth portrays things as they would be today - almost! Perhaps not gin drinking in the street ... but he's very clever with his paintings and the subjects he portrays ... giving us a running commentary of life as it was ...

Fascinating and lovely to see - especially now ... can you come up with another for the June one?! Cheers Hilary

Hels said...

Many of Hogarth's painting were made for satirical purposes, exposing bribery, corruption and sexual misbehaviour in a subtle enough way that would not get the artist in trouble with the authorities. Yet the paintings were hardly subtle at all. He changed the faces a bit but I bet the politicians etc knew INSTANTLY who Hogarth had in mind.

He was very fortunate not to be gaoled, over and over again.

bazza said...

Hello Hilary. I just squeezed that post into April (literally by five minutes) and I had contemplated something from Gin Street next but I will probably make a complete contrast, which is my general intent. Hogarth would be working in TV today I think.

bazza said...

Hello Hels. I know that Hogarth made some powerful enemies in the political world but I always presumed that because he was telling the truth he couldn't be sued. Naive of me I suppose.
There are plenty of regimes in the world today where someone like him would be 'removed'!
And yes, everyone knew who he was targeting!

Dixie@dcrelief said...

>>..."A humorous note is the man sawing off the pub-sign unaware that he will fall when it does!"

Bazza, that had me laughing out loud.

Hope you're having a pleasant Spring!

bazza said...

Hi Dixie. Yep, made me laugh too! Spring has well and truly sprung in the UK now but during this last week we have four seasons in one day a few times; from hail to sunshine!

John said...

Hi Bazza! Nothing ever changes, does it!? I like paintings like this where you have to really look at it to see all the hidden meanings.

bazza said...

Hi John. Plus ca change plus ca la meme chose" - The more things change , the more they stay the same. Some French bloke said that!

Sherry Ellis said...

Such an interesting painting. I was drawn immediately to the lion, and wondered what his purpose was. I loved your explanation of everything, and found the matter of the man sawing off the pub sign quite amusing.

bazza said...

Hi Sherry. I enjoy paintings more when I have to work to understand them; it seems that the same applies to you!

Hels said...

Since you published this Hogarth image, the Federal government of Australia declared a double dissolution and new elections for the 2/7/2016. Normally we would have a few weeks of nonsense promises and horrible speeches; this time we have eight weeks of even horribler (sic) speeches. And.... it could well be a hung parliament in any case!

Hogarth might have been spot on, even in 2016. I would simply rewrite "bribery, corruption and mob violence" as "bribery, empty promises and slander".

bazza said...

Hels: Like UK elections the whole thing will be over fairly quickly.
Hogarth certainly is relevant today - the corruption is just better hidden these days, and empty promises is the norm.

Annie ODyne said...

oh I loved Richard & Linda Thompson and bought their albums when they came out.
"meet me at the station don't be late. I need to spend some money and i just won't wait;
Take me to the dance and hold me tight
I want to see the bright lights tonight'
at that time I was also playing the Dransfields, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.
Hogarthian England.
2016 is pretty dreck music by comparison.

bazza said...

"Getting drunk and rolling on the floor / Is just the kind of thing I'm looking for" (or similar).
Brilliant song!
I used to go to a folk club in London Called Les Cousins which we all pronounced in our best French until we found out it was cool to use Anglo-Saxon pronunciation. The Incredible String Band, Alexis Korner, Sandy Denny, Ralph McTell and a pre-fame Paul Simon all played there.