10 DECEMBER 1948, Page 28

Hogarth's Drawings

IN spite of a recent volume on the same subject, which has already been noticed in these columns, Mr. Oppe's is the first serious and critical attempt to catalogue Hogarth's drawings and to discuss and interpret their significance. His. volume, which is now published by the Phaidon Press, is a model of its type. Its centre-piece is the catalogue of drawings by Hogarth and of those which, although no longer allowed to be from his hand, have ascriptions of respect- able antiquity. This admirably complete list is a striking example of Mr. Oppe's meticulous scholarship and critical acuity. His introduction provides an elaborate and scrupulous analysis of the place of the drawings in Hogarth's oeuvre and their relation to his completed works. And the 120 illustrations cover the known subject- matter to an extent which is for practical purposes complete—though it must be admitted that they do not all reach the high standard of reproduction which these publishers have set themselves.

The popular conception of Hogarth as the pub-crawling cari- caturist, the literally " thumb-nail " sketcher, is as old as the eighteenth century, and has led superficial, gossipy critics to suppose that he was never without a pen in his hand. Mr. Oppe demonstrates that this idea is far from the truth. We have in fact Hogarth's own written evidence, in his autobiographical drafts which are now in the British Museum, that he drew but little from nature, and he maintained that it was little necessary to do so. It is significant that preparatory sketches of compositions, and not studies from life, form the larger proportion of his extant drawings. Of these sketches, only two_ can be related to oil-paintings ; the remainder, when they can be identified, are stages in the design of engravings. There is, for instance, a remarkably complete range of drawings preliminary to the Industry and Idleness series of engravings, in which the well-known examples in the British Museum are supple- mented by additional drawings in the collection of the Marquess of Exeter, which are now published for the first time. There are also the Stages of Cruelty drawings, in the Pierpont Morgan and the Royal Libraries, to which a further drawing belonging to Lord Exeter has been added. But to put against these and other coherent 'groups, there is not a single drawing that can be related to those engravings which, like Marriage a la Mode, were based on oil- paintings. This leads Mr. Oppe to state " the obvious inference . . . that Hogarth, who was nothing if not business-like, worked out the subjects of his prints on paper only when there would be no market for them as paintings in oil."

Other important groups of drawings are those in the book com- memorating the " five-days' peregrination," which is in the British ,Museum and is well known ; and those much rougher sketches in the MSS of The Analysis of Beauty, which are also in the British Museum, but have been less studied. Mr. Oppe devotes detailed attention to the Analysis in discussing Hogarth's " conception of :dorm as a combination of lines." He points out that the title of the work was originally to have been "The Analysis of Beauty or Forms „lineally considered," which, together with the knowledge that ,Hogarth was trained as a silver-chaser, helps to remind us that lines, as understood by the engraver, continued throughout his life to be his primary concern. Several pages of the introduction are 'given to the genesis of Hogarth's style and to an analysis of its application in certain examples. His debt to Thornhill, whose son-in-law he became and whose work at St. Paul's and Greenwich "fired him with the wish to paint " ; his preoccupation with the ornamental, which links him with the great Baroque designers and 'produced the significant and preposterous " Shakespeare Chair," ,.of which an illustration is reproduced ; and his almost heraldic con- ' ception of the human form, which itself was another result and no less significant—all these are instanced as influences and effects which show through his work.

It is hardly necessary to add that Mr. Oppe spares his readers the boring and glib anecdotes which have flowed from the pens of many previous writers on Hogarth, and which have hitherto elbowed out a more rational criticism. His book is not only the first mono- graph on the drawings in which the subject is satisfactorily com- prehended ; it will for a long time remain the only monograph to

which the student will need to refer. JONATHAN MAYNE.