For years, I have been arriving in London Heathrow Airport where someone in our London office collects me and brings me to our London home or to a company flat. I am always eager to get my camera working as I start wandering around this magnificent city. But before I arrive in London, as the car is flying into London on the M4, I like to look right and tip my hat to Hogarth’s House. In all these years, I have driven by, wandered around the outside, but I have never been inside. Last year I was disappointed to hear that there had been a fire in the house and the central staircase was badly burned; but, I am thrilled to hear that the entire house has been restored and is open to the public on scheduled hours. Hogarth’s house is on my list for the top ten places I want to check out.
A few weeks ago, I was in the National Gallery and found myself “putting up” with a large group of students whose teacher was telling them about the series of Hogarth’s paintings. The young people were really very interested in the series, and I was interested in why they were paying such close attention. When the group moved to the other side of the room, I spent time in front of these wonderful images–all having a “go” at some social evil or another. The paintings may be 200 years old, but their satire was very modern, almost universal. William Hogarth lived in Leicester Square in the very heart of London. Chippendale’s workshop was two streets away on St Martin’s Lane, and Sir Joshua Reynolds was a neighbor on the Square. Hogarth was a vibrant figure in the 18th century as he painted formal portraits, satires, political events, and other items of great beauty. He was also a very successful engraver whose engravings have made their way into collections all over the world, including into my own collection. He lived in the art work and eventually married the daughter of the artist Thornhill whom we all know well from his paintings at Greenwich. He bought the Chiswick house as a summer retreat and for a family; however, he and his wife never had children. They did have a family of servants who were later the subject of one of Hogarth’s most famous paintings. A few years ago, I was in a pub in Tetbury and decided I would visit the loo before returning to London. I remember smiling when I visited the loo to see copies of Hogarth’s Gin Lane and Beer Lane. They were good warnings to the pub visitors, but the sketches were immediately recognized by anyone happily enjoying the loo.
William Hogarth was the consummate English painter. His themes were English, his sense of humor was English, his friends and influences were English. He lived in an English world and saw its underbelly as well as its humor. There were no GRAND TOUR throughout Europe for Hogarth. He was English through and through. He was highly respected by his peers with Garrick composing his tombstone memorial.
Visitors to the National Gallery will certainly come face to face with Hogarth’s paintings on those Gallery walls. And, you might enjoy a visit to Hogarth’s home in West London, only 20 minutes from Leicester Square. He is our 18th century artist giving insight into the life of her era. Fantastic.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918