Category Archives: Hogarth

Dinner at the Hospital

The Foundling Hospital played an important role in the developing community of artists in London in the 1740s and 1750s. Hogarth was the principal force behind this.  Back in 1740, Hogarth had donated his portrait of Captain Coram to the hospital, and in 1746 Hogarth, together with Rysbrack, suggested a plan to the Governors of the Hospital whereby artists, principally painters and sculptors, would donate work to decorate the (public) areas of the hospital, and, in return, would have their work seen by those sections of polite society who might commission more work from the artists.  The plan was approved and became a great success.  A committee was formed to meet annually on November 5 to oversee the donations.  Hogarth, Francis Hayman, Joseph Highmore, James Wills, Thomas Gainsborough, Samuel Wale, Richard Wilson, and more all donated works.

Hogarth_Captain Coram

As was frequently the case in eighteenth-century England, the annual business meeting of the committee soon acquired a dinner, which grew into a large gathering of artists and their supporters.  Few records of these dinners survive, with the exception of the one held on November 5, 1757.  At this dinner, an astonishing 154 people signed the guest list.  The original list is long lost, but it was transcribed and later published in [Brownlow 1847, 17—20]. Brownlow sorted the names alphabetically within profession (Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers) and non-artist supporters (who did not get a heading).  He also included some helpful footnotes identifying some of the names. The list thus stands as one of the few lengthy sources of the names of active artists in the late 1750s.

Joshua Kirby was present at the dinner, and out of the artists there that evening, at least 40 had subscribed to his Method of Perspective, as well as some half a dozen of the supporters.

 

References

Brownlow, J. (1847) Memoranda; or, Chronicles of the Foundling Hospital, Including Memoirs of Captain Coram, etc. London.

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Hogarth and the Elephantine Arch

In 1761, George III was crowned in Westminster Hall. As Master Carpenter of the Board of Works, one of William Oram‘s tasks was to construct and decorate a triumphal arch through which the King’s Champion would ride. A print of the arch was engraved by Anthony Walker:

William Henry Pyne included an anecdote about Hogarth, Hayman and other artists teasing Oram during the construction of the arch in his rambling, entertaining, and largely fictitious work, Wine and Walnuts. It should be remembered that Pyne was not yet born when the incident related allegedly took place. However, it is the only extended anecdote involving Oram that I know, so here it is (with Pyne’s epic footnotes suppressed, but eccentric punctuation retained): Continue reading

Critiques of Analysis of Beauty

Paul Sandby didn’t have it all his own way in his attacks on William Hogarth in the wake of the publication of the Analysis of Beauty. Despite misgivings in some quarters about Hogarth’s pretensions in reducing art to the `line of beauty’, the book was generally well-received. Paulson devotes a chapter to its reception in his 3-volume biography of Hogarth, giving a long description of various reviews from lengthy treatments, including one possibly written by Samuel Johnson for the Gentleman’s Magazine, to short poetic squibs. Paulson’s summary of the immediate reception in London is that, “The reviews acknowledged both its originality and its usefulness for a variety of readers. But they also leave the impression that Hogarth had strong friends within the literary establishment, and that his enemies were a small group centered in the St. Martin’s Lane Academy” (Paulson iii, 142). In other words, literary reviews were as much about personalities and politics as they were about the content of the reviewed work. At the time there was a great deal of ferment in artistic London with a group attempting to form an Academy with professorships and closed membership, a move opposed by Hogarth.

Among the lighter responses to the publication of the Analysis of Beauty quoted by Paulson is the following verse, which Paulson cites as appearing in the London Evening Post of 7—9 February 1754, a couple of months after the book first appeared the previous December (Paulson iii, 144). However, the anonymous lines had seen print right at the beginning of the controversial reception, being published in the Public Advertiser of 18 December 1753, coincidentally the very same issue that carried the report of the death of John Kirby, Joshua’s father, on the 13th of December.

To Mr HOGARTH

Tho’ Scriblers, Witlings, Connoisseurs revile,

Thy Book shall live an Honour to this Isle:

Exert, once more, thy Analysing Art,

And five the World the Beauty’s Counterpart:

Dissect the Passions which the Works create;

Delineate Envy, Ignorance, and Hate.

 

 

References

Paulson, R. (1991). Hogarth. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Hogarth’s Disciple

Another of Paul Sandby’s satires against William Hogarth and his line of beauty in 1753 was The Analyst Besh-n in his own Taste.

Joshua Kirby is the alarmed figure on the right, identified in the caption as `a Disciple droping the Palate and Brushes thro’ concern for his Masters forlorn State’.

It is probably worth noting that none of this prevented Paul Sandby and his brother Thomas from both subscribing to Kirby’s Method of Perspective.

Hogarth’s Fiddler

When William Hogarth published his book, Analysis of Beauty, in late 1753, he was swiftly subjected to an astonishingly virulent satirical print campaign by Paul Sandby, one of the most accomplished satirical artists of the time after Hogarth himself. Well-known as a close associate of Hogarth, Joshua Kirby was depicted in several of these prints. In the one below the fiddler standing on the stage behind the “Mountebank” Hogarth is usually identified as Kirby.

The caption reads, in part, “W: his Fidler standing in the Line of Beauty”.

Click through to the British Museum site for a larger image.

A Brief Biography

Joshua Kirby was born in 1716 at Parham in Suffolk, the second or third son of John Kirby and Alice Brown. The Kirby family lived at Wickham Market where his father kept a mill. John Kirby is now remembered for his Suffolk Traveller, a book detailing the roads and places of Suffolk, with accompanying large map. The book was published in 1736, and a few years later Kirby’s drawings of Scole Inn appeared. By now in his early twenties, Joshua had moved to Ipswich and obtained work at house-painting. In 1739, he married Sarah Bull. They had four children, of whom two died in infancy. Surviving were a son William, and a daughter Sarah.

Joshua’s brothers, John, Stephen and William all received legal training. John was Under Treasurer at Middle Temple, Stephen died in 1741 while working with his brother, and William married into the local landowning family of Meadowes and spent his career administering his wife’s estates. I know very little about his sisters, none of whom seem to have married.

Kirby’s next project was a series of engravings of local castles, abbeys, and monuments, each dedicated to a local patron, and the set of Twelve Prints accompanied by a brief Historical Account of the locations was published in 1748.

It was around this time that his great friendship with Thomas Gainsborough began, and many of Kirby’s Suffolk subscribers to his Twelve Prints sat to Gainsborough for portraits in the 1750s. It is not clear to me whether Kirby met William Hogarth through Gainsborough or through engravers, but Hogarth became a great promoter of Kirby. After the Twelve Prints, Kirby set to work on writing a volume on perspective painting. The project took several years, with much encouragement from Hogarth, eventually being published as Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy in 1754. This was Kirby’s big break. He gave a series of lectures on perspective to the St. Martin’s Lane Academy that were so well received he was immediately elected a member (many of the members of the Academy had subscribed to the book, with Hogarth taking 6 copies). He moved to London, gave another series of lectures on perspective from his house and rushed out a second edition of the book. Among the many new subscribers to the second edition were Thomas Sandby, Draughtsman to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and John Shackleton, Principal Painter to his Majesty. Also subscribing was the Earl of Bute, who had charge of the education of the Prince of Wales, and soon appointed Kirby as tutor on perspective to the prince.

After five years as a tutor, and with the accession of his pupil as George III, Kirby, along with his son, was appointed Clerk of the Works at Kew and Richmond, a post he retained for the rest of his life. Kirby was elected to the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries in 1767 and in 1768, during a period of furious factionalism was elected President of the Incorporated Society of Artists. Despite strong networking, Kirby was not really a political operator and he was unable to prevent the formation of the rival Royal Academy and fading of the Incorporated Society. He resigned in 1770, and in 1771 his son William died. Kirby’s health deteriorated and he died in 1774.

Kirby has not been well-served by biographers, and the most extensive description of his life is the article, “Joshua Kirby (1716—1774): a Biographical sketch” by Felicity Owen in the Gainsborough’s House Review of 1995.

Justly esteemed eminent masters

An anonymous essay published in the Universal Magazine in November 1748 on The Art of Painting contained, besides technical advice, a brief list “of those painters of our nation, now living … [who] are justly esteemed eminent masters”. The list is interesting for providing a snapshot at an early period. Both Gainsborough and Reynolds, then young and largely unknown, make the cut. The list is as follows:

Austin, Browne, Barrat, Blakey, Crank, Dandridge, Eccard, Ellys, Fry, Gainsborough, Goupy, Goodwin, Green, Grilsieir, de Groit, Hayman, Hogarth, Hoar, Hone, Hymore, Hudson, Jenkins, Knapton, Lambert, Lens, Mathias, Monamie, Murry, Penny, Pine, Pond, Ramsey, Reynolds, Scot, Shackleton, Seymour, Soldy, Somers, Spencer, Smith, Toms. The two Vanhakens, Van Blake, Van Diest, Vanderbank, Vandergucht, Verelst. Wills, Wotton, Worsdale, Williams, Wood, Wilks, Wilson, Wollaston. Zink.

It would be fair to say that their reputations have diverged in the intervening centuries.

Seven years later, not all of these artists were alive, or living in England, but of those that were, some nineteen subscribed to Kirby’s Method of Perspective.