Hogarthian Idyll?

You blink and you miss it. And if you see it you think what a place to have a country retreat and an art studio…just along one of London’s busiest roads, the Great West, gateway to Heathrow airport!

Of course, it wasn’t like that over two hundred years ago and entering the garden door you come into unexpected peace.

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There’s a lovely garden with an old mulberry tree and facing it a delightful Georgian cottage, the home until his death in 1764 of one of the world’s most original artists.

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Britain’s first truly sequential artist (if one discounts Italian fresco cycles, that is); its almost Swiftian visual counterpart of the cruelty to humans and animals alike; its commentator on the seamier side of the often termed age of elegance, the brothels, the madhouse, the rivers of gin, the fraudulent speculations, exploitation and abuse of minors, the political corruptions, the financially convenient marriages (aren’t these blots ever with us today?). Indeed, this artist and engraver has given us an adjective to describe the world he depicted and morbidly but realistically satirized: hogarthian.

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(The rake gets put into the madhouse)

Hogarth, however, didn’t just describe. He wanted social change and his generosity, especially towards the establishment (in the company of Handel, among others), of a home for abandoned babies and children – the Foundling hospital – and the care he took of his staff were way ahead of the often brutish attitudes of a century we praise for its refined architecture and modish ways.

Hogarth was also a great portrait painter and much in demand for his ‘conversation’ pieces. Above all, however, he was the first tragi-comic strip artist of the western world. Who cannot forget the story behind ‘marriage a la mode’ or ‘the rake’s progress’, for example?

The museum has none of the artist’s paintings but an excellent collection of his prints. The house has most of its features as they were during Hogarth’s time and also hosts fascinating exhibitions.

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The one held in 2014 to commemorate the artist’s death we missed but during our visit there a couple of days ago there was a fascinating one on the artist’s relationship with his favourite dog, the pug, which is included in several of his paintings. In fact, Hogarth, likened his appearance to that of his precious pet!

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There’s more on the museum with current opening times at

http://www.hounslow.info/arts-culture/historic-houses-museums/hogarth-house

We can truly say it was worth every effort to fathom out one of London’s lesser-known delights and one of the city’s few museums dedicated to a painter.

I particularly enjoy museums of houses where people who had important influences on our culture lived. London has so many of them. Just think of Keats, Morris, Dickens, Johnson, Soane, Franklin, Carlyle, Sambourne, Leighton, Asalache, Goldfinger, Handel, Natsume, Chesterfield, Hendrix, Freud, to name but a few.

 

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