“ Stirred an Immense Sensation ”
Hogarth’s Artistic Credo
Hogarth, William (1697 London 1764). Analysis of Beauty. Set of 2 sheet engraved by Thomas Cook (c. 1744 – London 1818). Inscribed: Plate I. (II.) / Designed by W. Hogarth. / Engraved by T. Cook / London Published by G. G. & J. Robinson Pater-noster Row August 1st 1798., title as before. 15¾-15¼ × 20⅛-20¼ in (40-41.3 × 51.2-51.6 cm).
Hogarth Catalogue of the Tate Gallery, 1971/72, 191 f. + Hogarth Catalogue Zurich, 1983, 76 f., each Hogarth’s version with illustrations.
Hogarth’s theory on beauty and grace (“Nature is whatever pleases the eye and entertains it”), devised with the intellectual help of his friends Hoadly, Townley, Morell, and others by many examples from art and history, was published in 1753 with the addition of two illustrating engravings (Statuary’s Inn Yard + Country Dance) and “stirred an immense sensation” (Thieme-Becker), not last among his critics. It forms his artistic credo “wherein he describes the sinuous line (The Line of Beauty) as the most pleasant form for the eye and even wanted to determine the lines which contain the form of beauty” (Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th ed.). Relating thereto though, so Nagler, “not everything is new, as the idea of the waved line. He symbolized this by an engraved palette with a bowed line (see this on the self-portrait with the dog), and as he was later told that one had known this already he (referred to the) sheet with Columbus and the Egg” from 1752 that together served as subscription ticket for the ‘Analysis’. Résumé of the whole is the small line sketch 71 on the posture of the dancers within the marginal depictions of the second sheet.
All numbered consecutively, plate I shows the most different figures – among which judge Bathurst signing a death penalty (appearing again in “The Bench” of 1758) whose train is carried by a boy armed with a gallows – , heads, limbs, plants, and other things. The statuary yard of his friend Henry Cheere at Hyde Park corner served as pattern of the place, “recalling Clito’s yard which was the setting of Socrates’ discussion of beauty in Xenophon’s Memorabilia” (Cat. Tate Gallery).
Equally lined plate II with its fine ball-like presentation of the English dance (9½-11¼ × 16⅞ in [24-28.5 × 42.8 cm]) by which the ideal of beauty + grace is illustrated. And here especially dominating by the couple dancing front left somewhat isolated whose elegance contrasts with the more rustic appearance of the rest of the party. By the way Hogarth transformed this gentleman in the 3rd state, not without expectation, into a portrait of the future George II. On the dancing floor, partly covered by the cast-off hats of the gentlemen, the silk cushion as necessary accessories of any ball for the so-called cushion dance, a kind of cotillion. The painting The Dance of c. 1745 as picture VI of The Happy Marriage served as model for this rich scenery.
All this presented quite comfortably here as Cook – “made his mark as Hogarth engraver, too”, Th.-B. – preserved the original format as the one and only among the posthumous engravers.
In regard of the intellectual background the catalogue of the Tate Gallery i. a. – generally see there pp. 74-76 with also comparing illustrations – points out to the following aspect :
“ The Line of Grace itself, a three-dimensional serpentine rhythm, is considered in the light of a psychology of the perception of form which remains perfectly credible, and indeed so relevant to the psychological aesthetics of modern art as to suggest that in Germany, where the Analysis was translated within a month, it contributed something to the mainstream of aesthetic, philosophy that it never has in Britain. It is true that ‘the Analysis is the first work … to make formal values both the starting point and basis of a whole aesthetic theory’. Yet even this commendation places a limit on understanding the book. ”
Upper margin trimmed to platemark. Reverse only very partially weakly foxing and only on plate II penetrating the image at two spots (quite minimally outer left and just negligibly more above the dancing hall).
Added: The Analysis of Beauty. Written with a view of fixing the fluctuation ideas of taste. (London 1803.) Large folio. Pp. 17-44 (cpl.). Unbound in cardboard wrappers. – “Readers … find a richer and subtler book than current ideas if it lead one to expect” (Tate Gallery op. cit.).
Nevertheless Lichtenberg treats the work and its repeated appearance on other plates with the remark Hogarth “shall have cherished a greater vanity in regard (of the discovery he made) than about those works of art that immortalized him”.
Offer no. 11,656 / EUR 510. / export price EUR 485. (c. US$ 586.) + shipping
– – – The same in steel engraving about 1840. 5⅛ × 6⅛-6¼ in (13 × 15.5-15.9 cm).
Without the text addition. – Sheet I slightly foxspotting and with acid-freely backed tiny tear in the wide lateral margin.
Offer no. 7,824 / EUR 66. (c. US$ 80.) + shipping
Also available separately :
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(Mijnheer P. E., 24. Januar 2008)