Where is Hogarth When You Need Him?

Boris Johnson laments the lack of a modern day equivalent

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As the new Hogarth exhibition opens at the Tate Britain, Boris Johnson believes today’s modern artists have missed a trick.

Speaking on BBC4’s Today programme, Johnson contended that Chiswick’s acclaimed 18th century artist, whose paintings depicted all things reprehensible from social disgrace to sexual deviances, would have a wonderful time with modern day scandals, particularly those surrounding Tony Blair.

He told listeners “What I would love to see is all these angry you British artists looking at this stuff and realizing the impact they could have if they perhaps tried to so something like it. Why not have a scene of Tony Blair’s modesty being outraged by Bernie Ecclestone as he offers him £1million?”

Promoting Hogarth’s Exhibition, which runs until April, Tate Britain state “Witty, satirical, subversive and hugely talented, William Hogarth remains one of the most fascinating and innovative artists from the eighteenth century. This superb exhibition is the most comprehensive showing of the artist’s work in living memory and incorporates the full range of Hogarth’s work.

“The exhibition demonstrates that Hogarth wasn’t only a brilliant satirist as it showcases every aspect of his multi-faceted career: his remarkable paintings, ranging from elegant conversation pieces to salacious brothel scenes; his vibrant drawings and sketches; and the numerous engraved works for which he is most famous today, including Gin Lane and Beer Street. His society portraits easily rival those of Gainsborough or Reynolds, and the variety and energy of his output is outstanding.

“No other artist’s work has come to define a period of British history as powerfully and enduringly as Hogarth’s. The exhibition explores an artist who was strikingly modern in character, confronting subjects and themes – the city, sexuality, manners, social integration, crime, political corruption, charity and patriotism– that continue to preoccupy us today. The exhibition makes the case that Hogarth was in fact Britain’s first truly modern artist, and shows the relevance of his work to British art now.”

February 9, 2007