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Hogarth and James Gillray: a Comparison Essay

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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 character savage, and goes back to crude humor with excessive body differences and exposed bodily functions that Hogarth only hints at through symbols. Gillray is also separated from Hogarth for his devout patriotism and conservative view. Hogarth portrays enemies to the British as powerful, and worrisome, while bashing the public with lesson after lesson in hopes that they stick and fill in the gaps created by social disorder.

Eventually, Gillray and Hogarth became figures just as important to British culture as those in the theatrical theatre had. While Gillray was loved for his figures, Hogarth was loved for his slow and symbolic wisecracks that people had to think about much like the plot of a book. Gillray was perhaps just as effective, although in a less paced way. His depiction of the French as weak, desperate creatures that looked for better in England was contrasted with his criticism of a few English officials – fat, happy, and complacently not caring about the war. His special love for attacking George the III was ften depicted in similar manners before Napoleon, or “Boney” became his subject of interest, and Gillray became popular throughout a large expanse of Europe. Thus it’s easy to say the man had Grotesque down pat. The distorted faces that tower above exaggerated shapes that are bodies were Gillray’s signatures. This made him popular throughout Germany, and other territories under Napoleon’s control. Very grotesque forms grow more and more grotesque as he pulls his most famous tool, a comparison between English and French stereotypes. Likewise, Hogarth and Gillray paved the way for modern cartoonists and characterture.

Despite the past ignorance about printmaking and engraving, they both have transcended from “conversation pieces” to be mulled over by the middle class and rich, to become a purer form of public opinion during these eras. Characterture in both a more classical or grotesque style, both artists began their careers with particularly absent parents, and ended with sadness as they lost their ability to work either through madness or blindness, and despite this remain some of the most historically relevant and interesting artists as their characterture influences all sequential arts today.

•Goethe and Caricature: From Hogarth to Töpffer, David Kunzle, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 48, (1985), pp. 164-188, Published by: The Warburg Institute,

•New Hogarth Studies, William Hogarth by Matthew Craske; The Other Hogarth: Aesthetics of Difference by Bernadette Fort; Angela Rosenthal; Hogarth by Mark Hallett, Review by: Timothy Erwim, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2, False Arcadias (Winter, 2003), pp. 304-308, Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Sponsor: American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS),

•James Gillray. London, Review by: Frédéric Ogée, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 143, No. 1183 (Oct., 2001), pp. 644-645, Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd. //