Hogarth

Hogarth by Mark Hallet                                                                       Phaidon Press (2001) Paperback

I’ve never really seen Hogarth’s work, although I have heard of him as he is ‘the most celebrated English painter and engraver of his day’, his day being 18th century London. Stumbling upon this book, however, has invested a much deeper appreciation for Hogarth and artists of his time within me. Before reading this book I regarded art during this time period and time periods past as relegated to portraits and other such whims of the rich and powerful, like religious paintings. Upon further exposure though I’ve found many of Hogarth’s engravings and paintings provocative, indicative of a point of view of the artist and truly able to make a statement from the artist’s own train of thought.

‘The Lady’s Last Stake’ (1759), a painting of Hogarth’s featured in the book, in particular I find humorous and endearing, not to mention the rich colors and textures (the wallpaper, her dress, the intricately welded clock) involved are gorgeously reproduced upon the book’s full-color glossy pages. Hallet describes the backstory to the painting clearly, allowing for better appreciation of a Londoner’s wit and humor during that time period. Overall Hallet covers Hogarth’s life gracefully and with charm and I feel I have a good handle on this artist’s repertoire with the paintings and etchings Hallet has chosen to reproduce in this book.

Did I mention Hogarth has French book flaps? They’re ideal for marking the pages of your favorite painting. The design of the book is modern yet leads to the historical context that comes along with Hogarth’s art. The text is dark brown, which I rather liked, it lent to something I imagine to be a late 18th century feel, reminding the reader of wood. Hallett also mentions Steve Bell’s satirical cartoons as a modern reference to Hogarth’s art, further answering that ever present itch of a question, why is this artist still relevant to the art world today. Well, satire will always have a place in art and entertainment, and that element is sprinkled throughout Hogarth’s work. This book was a quick but comprehensive glance into 18th century art and it was an enjoyable read!

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