A Scene of Furniture

Rosemary Hill

  • Hogarth: A Life and a World by Jenny Uglow
    Faber, 794 pp, £14.99, September 1998, ISBN 0 571 19376 5

An artist who becomes an adjective is difficult for the biographer. The Hogarthian world of teeming streets, lubricious drawing-rooms and earthy taverns has been softened by censorship and repetition until Gin Lane has, somehow, come to seem part of Merrie England. The occasion for this book was the 1997 tercentenary of Hogarth’s birth, which was also marked by several small exhibitions. The Tate, the British Museum and the National Gallery all showed the works in their own collections, but there was no attempt to form an overview or to revise his reputation in a single, major display. Perhaps this reflected the fact that while the paintings and their details remain eternally popular the moral world they represent is one in which the late 20th century is not at ease.

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