A Hogarth joins the Louvre

William Hogarth (1697-1764)
The Rake in Oxford, c. 1733
Oil on canvas - 63 x 76 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

23/4/08 — Acquisition — Paris, Musée du Louvre — Should the Louvre acquire secondary works by great masters who until now were missing in the collections ? The question is worth asking although far be it from us to attempt to answer it since there are no easy solutions to the quandary. In any case, one might wonder when viewing the current Tableau du mois which has just enriched the Département des Peintures and which is an unfinished canvas by William Hogarth representing The Rake in Oxford (ill.).

French museums do not own any works by this major English artist who enjoyed an exhibition at the Louvre in 2006 (see articlein French). Very few come up for auction and most of them are held in England which does not allow them to leave the country easily. Buying a Hogarth is therefore a particularly complicated process.
Although the work acquired by the Louvre is not typical of the artist, due to its sketchy condition, the subject is on the other hand fully in keeping with the repertory of moralizing themes so dear to Hogarth. It would seem in fact that this is the first painting, put aside before being completed, of the series of the Rake’s Progress for which eight episodes were finally executed. This hypothesis has been suggested by the artist’s specialist, Elizabeth Eimber, who should be publishing it soon [1]. This canvas, although unfinished, was published early on in the first monographic study devoted to Hogarth by John Nichols in 1782. It was then engraved by Joseph Haynes and was part of Sir George Beaumont’s collection.
Its historical prestige, the fact that it is (probably) the first work produced for one of the painter’s most important cycles therefore justifies its entering the Louvre. In the meantime, we can only hope that, one day, a more representative painting by Hogarth will join this one.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 23 avril 2008


[1] For more details the reader should see the text in French by Guillaume Faroult for the Tableau du mois found on the Louvre’s website.

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