HumanitiesWeb.org - "The Artist's Servants" by William Hogarth [Selected Works]
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The Artist's Servants

1750: Tate Gallery, London

It is undoubtedly in works done for his own satisfaction, including this painting, that we see Hogarth at his finest. In The Artists Servants, although the canvas is really more a set of separate studies rather than a group portrait, the result is a wholly pleasing composition and a charming study of diverse English types. These gentle portraits are deeply felt remembrances of people the artist loved. Placed at random on the canvas, they show the clarity and honesty that reflect the sympathetic view of human nature that underlies all of Hogarth's work.

Hogarth painted other life-sized portraits, including a few of the Royal Family, but at this kind of work he was not a commercial success. One of the reasons - perhaps the largest one - is not hard to see. His brush never lacked magic, but his preoccupation with middle-class morality got in its way. To almost all his sitters he gave the same smug, righteous, plain, honest look that can fairly be called Hogarth's "look of virtue". He awarded it to himself in his self-portraits and to women, including a duchess. Even children (and his dog!), were beneficiaries of this virtuous look. Unfortunately for Hogarth, not many noble patrons (the richest source of portrait money), and certainly few elegant 18th century women, wanted to look quite that homely or virtuous.

 
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