In my part-time job at Te Papa I sometimes get to spend hours with some of the national art collection. The visitor host art floor supervisor asked some of us to write a paragraph for a joint blog post about which art work currently on display we would like for Christmas (if we could have one, which of course we can’t!)
There is so much to choose from it was difficult, but this is my contribution. You can read the full post here.
“All I want for Christmas is William Hogarth’s Marriage a la mode print series, because it would give hours of pleasure deciphering all the details.
Hogarth was an English painter and engraver living in 18th-century London – he painted and made prints of flawed people and satirised the so-called polite and genteel manners and mores of his time. In Marriage a la mode (fashionable marriage) we see gouty Lord Squanderfield proudly showing his lineage going back to William the Conqueror, but who is in debt with a half-built Palladian mansion seen outside the window, marrying off his vain heir to a wealthy merchant’s daughter. The upset young woman is being soothed by the lawyer, appropriately named Silvertongue, with whom she will be seen having an affair later in the series.
Hogarth first painted the dramatic scenes, then sold on subscription the engraved print series before the prints had even been made. He was a canny businessman as well as an artist – in an age when middle class merchants were becoming wealthier.
His scenes are so rich in detail they could easily have been turned into a play, but you know it’s not going to end well in a Hogarth series! Along with author Henry Fielding and actor David Garrick (who all knew each other), Hogarth helped define his age; one sometimes called ‘Hogarth’s England’.”
‘Marriage a la mode’, Plate one: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/37445