Masterpieces of English Painting

Masterpieces of English Painting

Masterpieces of English Painting

Masterpieces of English Painting

Excerpt

1744 PLATES 2-7

A series of six paintings, oil on canvas, each 27 x 35 in.

Lent by the Tate Gallery, London (Nos. 113-118)

In 1731-2 Hogarth surprised the public with The Harlot's Progress, his first series of paintings. Engravings after this set which were put on the market immediately by the artist, had enormous success. According to Hogarth, this use of a moral subject was a "novel mode . . . and a field . . . not broken up in any country or age." The Rake's Progress followed in 1733-35 and in 1744 the artist produced Marriage à la Mode . This latest series presented a variety of Modern Occurrences in High-Life. The engravings gained the widest recognition for Hogarth but the original paintings were destined to be known and appreciated for decades by only a very small number of connoisseurs.

a. THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT

PLATE 2

The first painting shows a newly rich Alderman arranging a marriage between his daughter and Viscount Squanderfield. He has "bought" the contract from the insolvent Earl sitting opposite him, in exchange for a mortgage on a building which is seen under construction through the open window. The saddened bride is being consoled for her loveless match by Counsellor Silvertongue, while the groom, completely disinterested in the shameful bargain, diverts himself by taking a pinch of snuff.

b. SHORTLY AFTER THE MARRIAGE

PLATE 3

The Viscount has returned from a night of dissipation to find that his wife has been entertaining rough and noisy company. A servant is lazily replacing the furniture and a steward is leaving the scene, realizing this is no time to get payment for the bills he has presented. A typical Hogarthian note is a girl's frilled cap, peeping from the pocket of the husband, in which the dog takes suspicious interest.

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