Review Round Up: Hogarth and Europe, Tate Britain

We round up the reviews for Tate Britain’s Autumn exhibition on display until the 20th March 2022.

William Hogarth’s Southwark Fair (1733). Photograph: Rob Deslongchamps/Cincinnati Art Museum.

The Observer: *** “But by involving so many artists from so many places, something is lost. Hogarth and Europe is exhaustingly diffuse. Nor was I keen on its curators’ painfully extreme anxiety towards social attitudes in this period; to the connections of some of its subjects to colonialism and slavery; to sexism and antisemitism. They treat the work like bombs that are about to detonate. Desperate to defuse them before anyone is upset, they have appointed no fewer than 18 “commentators” (mostly academics), whose often clod-hopping analyses appear next to the work: a committee that has been designed to spot offence before it’s taken and even, on occasion, to invite the visitor to see insults that may not actually exist.”

Culture Whisper: **** “Hogarth is the true star of the show here and the fact that his European contemporaries can’t really compete is simply testament to the fantastic painter and observer of human behaviour that he was.”

Time Out: ** “Reevaluating the art cannon is a good thing, and I agree with the majority of what’s said here. But by spending the whole show telling you how awful Hogarth and his mates were, this just ends up feeling like an exhibition of paintings by a bunch of racists. If they’re so keen to point out how bad all of this is, why did they even bother?”

The FT: “Yes, it is essential to give postcolonial and feminist perspectives. But Tate itself has proved there are better, nuanced, show-not-tell ways: its superb 2007 Hogarth retrospective opened with Paula Rego’s searing version of “Marriage”, and Yinka Shonibare’s exuberant costume drama photographs “Diary of a Victorian Dandy” — a black rake with white servants.”

The Times: **** “I am not sure whether this is the question that Tate Britain’s curators wanted to provoke but I left this fine exhibition wondering if William Hogarth would have been a Brexiteer or a Remainer. So much of his work exudes contempt for the French and Frenchified ways, and it has clearly lost none of its topicality three centuries later. His magnificently sneering O, the Roast Beef of Old England, which portrays the French as grasping, superstitious and deluded, would need only to be updated with, say, a baked haddock to represent the views of quite a few English people today.”

Evening Standard: **** “What you do get is a stunning show of Hogarth’s work; 60 pieces, some of which haven’t been seen in London for decades, some from private collections and US galleries. There are wonderful works here such as Southwark Fair, which is everything we think of as Hogarthian and hasn’t been seen here for fifty years, and a striking portrait from the Frick of the extraordinary woman who owned it, Miss Mary Edwards, which hasn’t been in London for a century.”

London Visitors: “This fascinating exhibition places Hogarth in an international context and explores the artist’s often contradictory career. It has always been difficult to pigeon hole Hogarth, his interest in morals was obvious, yet he seemed to enjoy his celebrity status as a bawdy satirist. He was not a reformer because he was often quite conservative in his views. In many ways, Hogarth reflected the age he lived in which looked to the past but enjoyed the many benefits and pleasures of the chaotic new world”

Hogarth and Europe is on display at Tate Britain until the 20th March 2022.

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