York art historian puts Hogarth in the spotlight

Posted on 1 February 2007

An art historian from the University of York is helping to put a modern spotlight on the most important British artist of the early 18th century. Professor Mark Hallett, of the University’s Department of History of Art is co-curator of Hogarth, a new exhibition of Hogarth’s work at Tate Britain. Together with co-curator Christine Riding, curator of 18th and 19th century British Art at Tate Britain, Mark Hallett has spent the last five years working on the exhibition which opens on 7 February and runs until 29 April.

"This is the most comprehensive exhibition of Hogarth’s work for a generation" Professor Mark Hallett

Professor Hallett played a major role in conceiving and organising the layout of the show, which runs to ten rooms, each with different concepts and themes. He also co-wrote the catalogue, will be giving a series of lectures on the artist, and is organising two conferences to accompany the exhibition. "This is the most comprehensive exhibition of Hogarth’s work for a generation. The show focuses on the remarkable variety of things that he produced - satirical paintings and engravings, portraits, conversation pieces, ambitious historical canvases and highly original pieces of art theory - and on the variety that is on display within the images themselves. He is the most important British artist of the early 18th century and is often talked about as the father of British art," he said.

"The challenge for the curators is to bring scholarly rigour and responsibility into a project which has a much bigger public profile than much academic work. It’s about making Hogarth accessible without denying the complexity of his art."

Ironically, Hogarth himself was an organiser - he staged the first major exhibition of contemporary British art in the 1740s, at the Foundling Hospital in London. He was an astute businessman, and as a painter and a printmaker, he would issue prints of his own paintings. He trained as an engraver before moving into painting, his business acumen and ambition driven by his poor upbringing. Hogarth is organised by Tate Britain in collaboration with the Louvre. The exhibition opened at the Louvre last autumn - the first time a major show on the artist had been held in France.

"It is unusual for the Louvre to showcase a British artist, but it turned out to be the most successful autumn exhibition they have ever had," Mark Hallett said. After the UK exhibition closes, the exhibition will travel to CaixaForum in Barcelona, as part of an ongoing campaign to introduce Hogarth to a Continental audience.

Hogarth at Tate Britain, London SW1, from 7 February to 29 April 200