Monday, November 12, 2018

William Hogarth. Born November 10, 1697.

Study of his servants

The Shrimp Girl 
William Hogarth, (born November 10, 1697, London, England—died October 26, 1764, London), the first great English-born artist to attract admiration abroad, best known for his moral and satirical engravings and paintings—e.g., A Rake’s Progress (eight scenes,1733). His attempts to build a reputation as a history painter and portraitist, however, met with financial disappointment, and his aesthetic theories had more influence in Romantic literature than in painting

The Beggar's Opera VI, 1731, Tate Britain's version
The great twentieth-century cartoonist David Low described William Hogarth as the grandfather of the political cartoon. What he meant was that while Hogarth didn't quite set the template for political cartoons as we now recognize them (Gillray did that a generation later), the medium wouldn't be the same without him. There's a great deal of truth in this, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. Hogarth refined a pre-existing tradition of visual satire, taking it to previously unscaled heights of sophistication and skill. And, through the popularity of his output, he placed visual satire shoulder to shoulder with the textual satire of the times (the elderly Swift wrote a poem to the young Hogarth, praising him and proposing that they collaborate). But he also established a journalistic tradition that's still flourishing today. (from a review of his show at the Tate, 2007). Hogarth cared passionately about both, primarily for personal reasons but also because he believed in art as a vital creative force in society. 

A Rake's Progress, Plate 8, 1735, and retouched by Hogarth in 1763 by adding the Britannia emblem
Marriage à-la-mode, Shortly After the Marriage (scene two of six).
He despised the connoisseurs’ exclusive admiration for the Old Masters and their prejudice in favour of foreign artists. In his first major work, Masquerades and Operas, published independently of the booksellers in 1724, Hogarth attacked contemporary taste and expressed attitudes that were vigorously sustained throughout his life. Boldly questioning the standards of a powerful clique that was supported by the 3rd earl of Burlington, an influential art patron and architect, Hogarth’s first blow with the connoisseurs was shrewdly designed to appeal to his hero, Thornhill, who was himself suffering from Burlington’s Neoclassical revival. Thus, Hogarth made powerful enemies at the start of his career, and, when they retaliated about 1730 by nullifying royal interest in his work, he was cruelly disappointed. Indeed, despite his own intransigent frankness, Hogarth was always discouraged and offended when his opponents hit back.

First print in the series "A Harlot's Progress" Complete series on line at Wikipedia
In 1792, Hogarth married and while his marriage was childless, it was a happy union.. 

In the next few years, small paintings, which acknowledged a great debt to the early 18th-century painter Antoine Watteau and the elegance of French Rococo art, brought Hogarth an appreciative and wealthy clientele. Hogarth soon got tired of this and turned to works which showed the depth and breadth of contemporary life, all the good, the bad and the ugly.

A harlot's progress, Plate 
Hogarth wanted to extract entertaining and instructive incidents from life. In telling the story of a young country girl’s corruption in London and her consequent miseries, he not only ridiculed the viciousness and follies of society but painted an obvious moral. The engravings were aimed at a wide public, and their tremendous success immediately established Hogarth’s financial and artistic independence. He was henceforth free, unlike most of his colleagues, to follow his own creative inclinations. To safeguard his livelihood from unscrupulously pirated editions, he fought to obtain legislation protecting artist’s copyright and held back the eight-part Rake’s Progress until a law of that nature, known as the Hogarth Act, was passed in 1735. In the following year Hogarth moved into the house in Leicester Fields that he was to occupy until his death.

Gin Lane
London becomes a hell on earth as the poor drink themselves to death. 

Beer Street
Hogarth was in many ways a contradictory figure: a satirist who wanted to be part of the Establishment; a popular engraver who wished to be recognized as a serious artist. He succeeded in being all these things (although, in the first instance, at great personal cost). But first and foremost he was a polemicist. That may seem to be a pretty obvious thing to say when you look at A Rake's Progress (1735), or A Harlot's Progress (1732), or The Idle and Industrious Apprentice (1747), or Stages of Cruelty (1751). But what's truly interesting is the way he did it, because it was essentially contradictory. 

Take his most famous print, Gin Lane (1751). At face value it is identical, in intention and effect, to a modern tabloid headline. It was inspired by a news story Hogarth heard about a woman who murdered her infant daughter so she could sell her clothes to buy gin - the equivalent of a banner headline today about teenagers killing someone for money to buy crack. It's meant to shock; moreover, it's meant to shock the viewer into better behavior. Thus its companion piece, Beer Street (also 1751), showing the advantages of honest English ale over evil foreign gin. To this end it was sold cheaply in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. In other words, it was a kind of proto-popular journalism, the first glimmer of the developing mass media.

From the Art Bible: William Hogarth will be remembered as the father of satirical caricatures and moral paintings, a genre which would later develop into cartoons. His determination and stout middle-class values made him one of the most innovative artists of his generation and he brought art to the common man for the first time in history.

Biographical information from the Encyclopedia Britannica. 
Information on the print Gin Lane 
Gin Lane vs Beer Street.
144 art works:
What was missed in history class:
Art Bible:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

In Flander's Fields

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae, 1872 - 1918

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
In Flanders fields.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Charles Demuth. Born November 8th in 1883

"I Saw the Figure Five in Gold," a painting whose title and medallion-like arrangement of angled forms were both inspired by a verse the poet wrote after watching a fire engine streak past him on a rainy Manhattan street while waiting for Marsden Hartley, whose studio he was visiting, to answer his door.

Charles Demuth 
born November 8,1883, LancasterPennsylvania, U.S.—died October 23, 1935, Lancaster, painter who helped channel modern European movements into American art and who was also a leading exponent of Precisionism.

He studied at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. While he was a student there he met William Carlos Williams at his boarding house. The two were fast friends and remained close for the rest of their lives.

He later studied at Académie Colarossi and Académie Julian in Paris, where he became a part of the avant garde art scene. The Parisian artistic community was accepting of Demuth's homosexuality.

While he was in Paris he met Marsden Hartley by walking up to a table of American artists and asking if he could join them. He had a great sense of humor, rich in double entendres and they asked him to be a regular member of their group. Through Hartley he met Alfred Stieglitz and became a member of the Stieglitz group. In 1926, he had a one-man show at a New York gallery run by his friend Alfred Stieglitz.

Demuth suffered either an injury when he was four years old or may have had polio or tuberculosis of the hip that left him with a marked limp and required him to use a cane. He later developed diabetes and was one of the first people in the United States to receive insulin. He spent most of his life in frail health, and he died in Lancaster at age 51 of complications from diabetes.

PRECISIONISM MAY BE THE forgotten bandwagon of 20th-century American art. Today, the hard-edged style and many of the artists it attracted remain overshadowed by Abstract Expressionism, which definitively put American art on the international map in the early 1950's. But in the late 1920's and early 1930's, when modern machines and architecture held the promise of a bright, streamlined future, Precisionism seemed like an art movement whose time had come and a sure sign of American art's international stature. From a review in the NY Times: 11/12/1994, 

Demuth's cheeky and evocative (and private) paintings of early-20th-century American gay subculture are among its few surviving visual records, and his jazz portraits celebrate the power and dynamism of the Harlem Renaissance.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Happy Diwali. And, yes we can

I was so anxious about the election that I went to the movies to avoid watching any of the coverage until it was late enough that most races would be decided. Arriving home late, I was overjoyed to learn that the Democrats had taken the House, but disappointed at some of the governor's races. I'm worried about redistricting in 2020 that could result in gerrymanders favoring DT. 

As I saw clips of the president at his campaign rallies in the last few weeks, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It was an appalling performance, even for him. All that fear mongering--and all these people apparently swallowing it whole. Do they really sit around worrying about an immigrant "invasion"? We keep hearing that we have to learn to understand why DT's supporters are his supporters, but I find it really hard to put myself in their shoes. I have found conversations with them impossible - there is no way around their belief in hate and violence. 

But on a more pleasant topic, the movie I saw was nonfiction, called Tea with the Dames. It was simply a filmed conversation with the actresses Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright. What a delight! These four old women just talked and laughed. Maggie Smith is as funny when she is being herself as when she is playing a role. It's not the sort of movie that will play everywhere, but it should get to NetFlix eventually. I recommend it highly.

I feel the House turning blue prevented a bigger catastrophe - I don't think that the Republicans can go ahead with destroying Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid - although I am sure they will try.Knowing that thousands would die from the lack of medical care seems to give them quite a thrill. 

Quite a few of the  talking heads on TV are  chuckling that Dems failed: Ha!! There was no Blue Wave. But there was. Look at those close elections in Texas, Georgia and Arkansas! Who’d ever think that was possible? But it is a tough to impossible row to hoe when most US House districts are GOP gerrymandered, and when red rural Senate states take up much of the US Senate seats. Heard that Dems outvoted Reps nationally by 8 million votes! Incredible…but the results don’t show it because the GOP fix was in! 

But happy to report that in Michigan there WAS a Blue and Pink Wave which swept three progressive ladies into the top gov’t positions (Gov, AG, Sec of St), we legalized marijuana, two gerrymandered red US Congress seats were flipped to blue by lady politicians, we will have an independent redistricting committee to draw the lines in 2020, and now we have in place constitutional law to promote easy voting for all, help end voter suppression and move toward 100% citizen participation in their Democracy! Full speed ahead. The grassroots are engaged! Oh and Walker lost in Wisconsin!

What caused the potential tragedy and where, how to change the policies and mindsets that set it into motion are the larger, life-changing questions.

We can do this.

Serendipitously, today is India's Diwali. The lights are to illuminate the beauty in the world and to allow people to see and move beyond ignorance. It's a soulful 'holiday' that shows how love and cooperation inspires sharing with others on the tiniest and largest levels, rather than competitively, would give everyone what is wanted for their own peace of heart and mind.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"E" is for Election

E is for election! From the Latin word 'electio', meaning 'a choice'.
Depicted in James le Palmer's Omne Bonume (All Good Things) Royal 6 E VII, f. 19

Monday, November 5, 2018

Vote blue. Vote like your future depends on it. Organize and keep on fighting.

To all of you working tirelessly for a more just and empathetic America... To you who are comforting the frightened, protecting the marginalized, and serving in causes greater than your own.... My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Bede's "On the reckoning of time"

Explanation of the Earth as a sphere, from a copy of Bede, De Temporum Ratione, made in England or Normandy, late 11th or early 12th century: Royal MS 13 A XI, f. 62r 

Since #DaylightSavingTime ends in the US today, here is Bede's 'On the Reckoning of Time', object of the day from the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition. Bede explained that the length of daylight varies because 'the earth is, in fact, round' 

Miniature of the Earth in a circle, with personifications of the four cardinal points, made in England in the 3rd quarter of the 13th century: Egerton MS 843, f. 23r 
From the comments: The myth that medieval people believed the earth to be flat can be traced to Washington Irving's 1828 novel *A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus*. Irving added this element to spice up an otherwise rather dull story, the novel became a bestseller and the myth became part of the founding story of the US. The history of this common misconception can be found in Jeffrey Burton Russell’s *Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians* (1991) and I write about the persistence of this myth here:
Posted by: Tim O'Neill | 25 May 2018 at 12:08 PM