HumanitiesWeb.org - "The Graham Children" by William Hogarth [Selected Works]
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The Graham Children

1742: Tate Gallery, London

This is Hogarth's most ambitious portrait of children. He gives the figures in this large painting something of the same frank grandeur found in his portraits of adults, without losing a sense of childish gaiety.

Note, however, that the clock on the mantelpiece is decorated with the figure of Cupid holding a scythe and standing beside an hour-glass, both symbols of death. Opposite, an animated cat has climbed the back of a chair and gazes at the caged bird. We know that the baby was dead when the portrait was painted, and this probably accounts for the sombre references to mortality, at a time when many children died in infancy.

 
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