(prints & paintings - 1/5)
Miss Mary Edwards (1742)
'One of the most remarkable women of her age, Mary Edwards was Hogarth's most devoted patron during the 1730s, commissioning a number of portraits, a conversation piece and the satirical Taste in High Life (1742), as well as purchasing the oil version of Soutbwark Fair (1733). This striking portrait was completed some three years before her death in 1743. Mary Edwards's enthusiasm for Hogarth's work was sustained by the enormous fortune she had inherited in 1728 when she was only twenty-four from her father Francis Edwards of Welham. Earning her an annual income of £50,000--£60,000, this inheritance left Edwards vulnerable to fortune-hunting suitors, hoping to take advantage of the absence of any legal protection for married women's property. Edwards's marriage at a clandestine Fleet wedding in 1731 to Lord Anne Hamilton (whom his father, the fourth Duke of Hamilton, had christened after the child's godmother, Queen Anne) turned out to be a disaster. Her new husband, five years her junior, proved profligate and unreliable. In order to protect the inheritance of her son Gerard Anne, Edwards took advantage of the secrecy with which she had married, and had all evidence of the wedding removed from the records, preferring to court disapproval as a single mother rather than see her husband squandering her fortune. Having escaped from this disastrous relationship, Mary Edwards recovered control over her financial affairs, which she administered independently until her death. Hogarth's portrait, notable for the vivid red of Edwards's dress, was painted when the sitter was in her late thirties. The device of the dog, staring devotedly at his mistress, is a common feature of such works, signifying fidelity or admiration, though it Is more often associated with male subjects. Its presence perhaps gives us a hint of Edwards's proud self-reliance.'
Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Winchester (painting : 1743)
Lord Grey and Lady Mary West as Children (1740)
William James (1740-45)
Detail of Captain Thomas Coram (1740)
'Provoked by the arrival in London of the French portraitist Jean-Baptiste Van Loo in December 1737, Hogarth produced this, his first essay in grand manner portraiture, 'without the practice of having done thousands, which every other face painter has before he arrives at doing as well'. The artist's characteristic immodesty is Justified by this seminal work, which vies with the glamour of continental baroque portraiture, whilst moderating its ostentation to produce a more domesticated and approachable icon of middle-class Englishness. Born in Lyme Regis, Thomas Coram had spent much of his adult life in America, where he had pursued a successful career in shipbuilding. Upon his return to England in around 1719, he became actively involved in philanthropic projects, most famously the Foundling Hospital in London which today bears his name. It was through his close association with this enterprise that Hogarth donated his services to portray Coram, whom he shows displaying the royal charter granted to the hospital in 1739. In his everyday dress and somewhat neglected appearance, Coram embodies the image of bluff Englishness which stood in symbolic contrast to the effete ways of mainland Europe. Amidst the standard trappings of baroque portraiture - the column, draperies, ocean vista -and allegory of Charity faintly visible on the right - Coram perches on a raised dais, his feet scarcely touching the ground. His unidealized features, ruddy complexion and open gaze convey a directness uncommon in the genre. Uncommon too is the way that Hogarth subtly undermines the illusion of ideal space by including the reflection of a window pane on the brilliant surface of the globe, which itself serves to remind the viewer of Coram's trading exploits. With 'this mighty portrait', as the artist himself described it, Hogarth graduated from the conversation piece to the grand style with almost casual ease.'
William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire (1741)