Hogarth and James Gillray: a Comparison

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February 3rd, 2013

Final Assignment – Hogarth and James Gillray: A Comparison While years apart, two of the greatest characterture artist in history are both British artists similar in many a way. Since both are huge influences on political art, characterture itself, and even fine artists of the time period, they both had strikingly similar sense of self, and inspiration. However, both contributed their own specific flavor to satire itself, and have gained the fame as two of the greatest characterture artists of all time. For instance, William Hogarth, well rounded in skill as a painter, and a satirical artist he began his career more well known for doing portraiture then what others at the time considered “conversation pieces” Hogarth gained fame through his near comic-motion engravings that went in series, and his sequenced prints like A Rake’s Progress are considered some of the first the stepping stones for the sequential arts. Hogarth was a progressive, and created the Engravers Copyright Act that has led to almost all forms of documentation and law that protect artist nowadays, and has produced many prints analyzing beauty, characterization, and the meanings behind it all in a Da Vinci like process. Thus it’s not too hard to see some similarities as Hogarth is one of the most important influences in James Gillray’s life, and subsequently influenced him to begin life as a characterture artist. I his early life, the younger artist looked up to the near-dead man, and figured maybe he could do something about it. His early charactertures are more engravings then characterture, and soon focused on the war, Gillray takes to crude humor and exaggerated figures quickly after realizing their effect on the public. This is why the most important differences in their life were perhaps translated through their work. To Hogarth everything was focused on strict moral lessons and a firm belief in physiognomy. The man himself believed social order would come to an end during the war. Fearing a lack of morals in the people around him Hogarth was very radical, and self-ambitious. He never chose a specific side, and favored to insult both the king and his enemies. Most of his targets however, were important figures that abused their power. He displays people and their flaws in a more subdued manner that came through his portraiture work in the time before he was a characterture artist. It is believed that this set of beliefs began at a young age for the artist. When his father went to debtor’s jail, and Hogarth fended for himself, he began taking a look at the world around him and sketching characters in the people he saw. Gillray was similar in that respect. Traveling with a group of strolling players he eventual came back to school which he paid for with prints and engravings. Further expansion shows his ideas are base upon The Analysis of Beauty, a document based on the perfect appearance for certain characters, and something that would be revolutionary. His hidden symbols combined with the classic sense of beauty makes for prints that are theatre-like, and Hogarth is often called the “Shakespeare of characterture” as a result. His stories unfold like a book, and often came in sets like A Rake’s Progress, depicting one characters fall into moral failure after receiving a large sum of money. Gillray is very different in this respect, more so focusing on the whole body, and body language of the character to carry a point across. Gillray was definitely a conservative, and liked to comment on the people and political characters around him in more violent ways. While Hogarth may insinuate a person is immoral through comparison and details, Gillray would simply put Napoleon’s head on a stick in his images. What we do draw from these horribly distorted figures is a kind ode to The Analysis of Beauty Hogarth produced. Neither bone-straight nor extremely curvy, limp figures are representations of good. James is successful in making each...
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