Saturday 17 December 2011

Ho Ho Hogarth

Today, on a cold December day I decided to visit Hogarth’s House, newly reopened after being restored from fire damage and to do a little bit of Christmas shopping. 

The house is a thin, modest affair, once in the corner of an orchard but now next to the A4. Among the traffic and the mess is a brewery, I’m sure Hogarth would have liked that. Whether he would have liked the huge roundabout named after him, that is less sure. The political cartoonist, Martin Rowson made his own comment on the roundabout, a print of which hangs in his house. 

Now, the house is not large and does not contain any paintings, if you want them I recommend the Tate Britain and Sir John Soame’s Museum (though would I recommend them anyway) but it does contain several sets of prints, ‘Harlot’s Progress’, ‘Rake’s Progress’, ‘The Stages of Cruelty’ and ‘Marriage a la Mode’. The prints are clear and well displayed and you can get as close to them as you’d like. Indeed, comparing the paintings of ‘Rake’s Progress’ and the prints, the prints are clearer, starker and more interesting. Also, many of the prints have interesting doggerel underneath them, Hogarth’s friend wrote them for ‘The Four Stages of Cruelty’ but I don’t know who wrote ‘A Rake’s Progress’. These prints are the highlight of the Hogarth House collection.

The house also owns a number of personal items, including the stool used by his dog and also an original brass print, an art case, some jewellery and a copy of his ‘Line of Beauty’ book. There is something special about this, Hogarth’s objects in his house. The house has been tidily restored and the whole house is coloured in pearl according to research on the paint used. 
(There is a fascinating article about eighteenth century paint choices here:
Hogarth’s House is a good place, a small bus ride from Hammersmith and no price to enter. Also, it is a very short walk from the also very interesting Chiswick House. This was a house built by Lord Burlington, designed by William Kent and later lived in by William Cavendish and his wife Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire. Although the house itself is not open until April Fool’s day, I got to wander the gardens. They are fascinating, full of grottos and vistas and follies and more statues of chubby emperors and urns then anyone but an eighteenth century lord could ever wish. 

As I wandered the gardens, the shining winter sun cast long shadows through the trees and bounced seductively off the hundreds of urns. What with the hundreds of pretty women doting on bouncing dogs and the families with smug dad’s running after small beamingly screaming children and the place looked like a white middle class vision of heaven - and that’s no bad thing, visions of heaven never are.
The rest of the day continued to be blessed, I went Christmas shopping and found deal after deal, bought more and better presents then I hoped and didn’t hear a single crying child or het up mum. A man even gave me his seat on the bus. 
So I will have a merry Christmas and I hope you will too.

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