William Hogarth, Characters and Caricaturas, a print

Published in London, England, AD 1743

Hogarth's subscription ticket announces that he is a comic artist, not a caricaturist

This etching was designed as a subscription ticket - a receipt presented to all those who had placed an advance order for Hogarth's series, Marriage à la mode.

It refers to Henry Fielding's preface to Joseph Andrews (1742), where Fielding had praised Hogarth as a comic history painter and drawn a parallel distinction between the comic and the burlesque in writing and between comedy and caricature in painting. The comic painter imitates nature, while the caricaturist distorts and exaggerates nature. Hogarth, Fielding had said, expresses 'the affections of men on canvas' and his figures 'seem to think'.

Hogarth particularly disliked caricature because it was an Italian fashion that was being introduced to England by the same people who dealt in foreign 'old master' paintings and drawings. These dealers and drawing masters encouraged their pupils and patrons to think more highly of what was old or continental than of modern English art. At the base of his design Hogarth contrasts 'characters' taken from Raphael's cartoons (in the Royal Collection, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) with caricatures by Leonardo, Carracci, and the fashionable contemporary Italian, Pier Leone Ghezzi. Above, a crowd of expressive, but not caricatured, faces demonstrate the variety and subtlety of character.

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More information

Bibliography

R. Paulson, Hogarths graphic works, 3rd edition (London, The Print Room, 1989)

D. Bindman, Hogarth and his times: serious, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

T. Clayton, The English print, 1688-1802 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997)

R. Paulson, Hogarth, vol 2 (Cambridge, Lutterworth, 1991-93)

Dimensions

Height: 258.000 mm
Width: 204.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1848-11-25-209

PPA62795

Location

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