The Growth of the Art World in Eighteenth Century England. 7May 8, 2018
Hogarth & the Academy.
Paintings at Vauxhall weren’t only comic pastorals; there were also a series of works done by Hayman on the dramas of Shakespeare;1 obviously, this was more serious art which the public seldom saw, and when they did they lacked the knowledge and language of the connoisseurs to understand and discuss it.2 Most serious art wasn’t visible because of the deplorable situation in the English art world described earlier. The first academy of drawing and painting from life appeared in 1711, based in a room in Lincoln Inn’s Fields; it was led by Kneller and included Thornhill on its board. After a series of power struggles, the academy moved to St Martin’s Lane where the name of Hogarth is seen on the membership list. After Thornhill’s death in 1734, Hogarth began to re-build St Martin’s Academy, which would train Reynolds, Thomas Hudson, Gavin Hamilton, Roubiliac, and others. However, Hogarth seems to have been ambivalent about the notion of an English Academy. An earlier print he produced called The Taste of the Town in 1724 pokes fun at what Hogarth sees as the pretensions of the academy, represented by an edifice – Somerset House, sarcastically named “Accademy of Arts”- bearing the English user of Palladianism, William Kent, who is accompanied by statues of Michelangelo and Raphael. This structure is placed next to a crowd of “vulgar” popularisers standing nearby celebrating a harlequin’s performance of “Dr Faustus.” Despite the anti-academy slant of the engraving, Hogarth’s was incorporated within an actual English academy; as for the question of his artistic xenophobia, this is more complex as many foreign artists lived and worked in London; and Hogarth’s portraits were undoubtedly influenced by French engravers and painters.3 Other important institutions for the production and promotion of English art would be the Foundling Hospital, built by the philanthropist Captain Thomas Coram (1668-1751) in 1739. The Foundling would prove to be another unorthodox place for viewing pictures as it would contain four large history paintings,4 some landscape roundels showing London hospitals, since art was thought by some to be therapeutic; the Great Court has been compared to the saloon of a large country house (above), though its function was for taking care of society’s unfortunate and discomfited.5
1According to Stuart Sillars, Hayman’s Shakespeare series may have numbered at least seven pictures, Painting Shakespeare: The Artist as Critic 1720-1820, (CUP, 2006), 64.
2Sadly, almost all of the works in the original series have been lost, there is a surviving modello of the play scene in “Hamlet” in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. In addition to Hamlet, there were scenes from King Lear, The Tempest and Henry V, ibid, 67.
3Perry, “Mere Face Painters”’? 142.
4One should acknowledge the influence of Poussin’s Moses paintings on these painters here. Poussin’s classical and antiquarian Egyptian ideas would have been known to Hogarth and Hayman (who both painted Moses subjects, visible in the above picture) through George Turnball’s Treatise on Ancient Painting (1740). But as Solkin notes (Painting for Money, 170-1) Poussin’s classical was also admired for its “emotive” qualities. As Solkin puts it, Turnball “turns Poussin away from the stoic and towards the sentimental,” thus making Poussin more useful to a climate in which sentimentalism would become part of the culture which would continue into the age of R. A. classically trained painters like Benjamin West.
5Solkin, Painting For Money, 164.