Hogarth and Europe ★★★★★ Tate Britain | Nov 3, 2021 - Mar 20, 2022


Hogarth and Europe is an extremely comprehensive and beautifully curated exhibition. Along with Hogarth we meet several other contemporary artists who were working in the great cities of Europe and producing somewhat similar impressions of their times. Urban life is shown from the upper echelons of society to the lowest depths of degradation. Several works are satirical in tone, but there are also moments of quite broad humour: one painting features faces painted on exposed buttocks dangling from an upstairs window. The Rake's Progress is seen here in its glorious original oils rather than in the often displayed engravings. A scene from The Beggar's Opera gives us an insight into theatrical production of the time. This is also an opportunity to see Hogarth's beautiful portrait of Miss Mary Edwards, a wonderful work all too rarely displayed in this country. Other pictures are redolent of the family convivially gathering together in large numbers. The panoply of human experience is on display, and the exhibition offers a fascinating chance to view and consider works by Hogarth in the context of his contemporaries. Of the European painters, we were particularly drawn to the works of Cornelis Troost and Nicolas Lancret. As with Hogarth, self-delusion rubs shoulders with opportunity and innovation, luxury with extreme poverty. The juxtaposition of such widely varied works certainly gives us an insight into urban and family life in the early part of the eighteenth century, but it also provides some fascinating comparisons to today. Issues of class, race and gender are all around us in this huge, and wonderfully thought provoking exhibition. Plus ça change....

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode: 2, The Tête à Tête, c 1743. The National Gallery, London.

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