'Hogarth was a hack'

May 1 2017

Image of 'Hogarth was a hack'

Picture: Yale

In Apollo, the great Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson has reviewed Elizabeth Einberg's new catalogue raisonneé of Hogarth's paintings (incidentally, what a sharp piece of editorial commissioning). Rowson is a fan of Hogarth, of course;

For cartoonists like me, Hogarth is the grandfather of our profession. In elevating visual satire to the level of art, he bequeathed us a vision of the 18th century summed up in his own eponymous adjective. As Robert Hughes wrote in The Fatal Shore, describing the world from which the first convict settlers of New South Wales were transported: ‘Modern squalor is squalid but Georgian squalor is “Hogarthian”, an art form in itself.’ Moreover, the new school of British art that Hogarth boasted that he’d founded with his Modern Moral Tales – shot through as they are with narrative, polemic, and mockery – leads far more obviously to Gillray, Cruikshank, and modern political cartoons (the last redoubt, incidentally, of allegorical painting) than to Constable or Reynolds.

He concludes that Hogarth was something of a 'hack' - but in a good way;

As well as being both artist and artisan, he was also quite often something of a hack, just like me. It’s another badge I suspect Hogarth, counting the swag, would have worn with quiet pride.

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