Eros and Hogarth

Robert Melville

  • Hogarth by David Bindman
    Thames and Hudson, 216 pp, £5.95, April 1981, ISBN 0 500 20182 X

David Bindman does not think that Hogarth was joking when he gave one of his contemporaries, John Nichols, a comic demonstration of minimalism: it took the form of a diagram composed of three lines and he claimed that it contained his memory of ‘a Sergeant with his pike going into an Ale House, and his Dog following’. It was supposed to be a method he had invented to save him spending time on drawing. Of the three lines, one is vertical and stands for the ale-house door. The other two branch off it, the higher one being the sergeant’s pike, ‘who is gone in’, and the lower one, short and curly, being the dog’s tail. The demonstration is so blatantly simplified by the sergeant and most of his dog having ‘gone in’ that one would want to see the shorthand reminder for an actual painting before finding such a means of recall believable. Bindman would surely have reproduced an example if one were to be found. All the same, he contends that since the few sketches found in Hogarth’s studio rarely connect with his paintings, some system of lines, possibly of the kind recorded by Nichols, must have emerged from his intensive cultivation of visual memory.

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