Friday, 29 January 2016

Hogarth's House

Hogarth Lane, Great West Road
Chiswick W4 2QN

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Hogarth's House opens at 12.00, which was fine by us as it is a long way west for both of us.. So Linda and I met at Turnham Green and paused for rather a good sandwich before our walk to the House. A promising brown sign by the tube station proved to be the only hint until we were pretty well there, but Linda had brought a map so we were fine.

Having seen some original paintings last week, we were keen to visit the artist's country home. Not that it's much of a country retreat now, with the great West Road roaring past, but the house contained a couple of pictures of views over rolling cornfields, as well as a map from around the time of the Hogarths' residence.

We had found Sir John Soane's Museum rather dark and chilly (though of course interesting) so this was a pleasant contrast.  It was occupied both before and after the residence of the artist and his family, which began in 1749. The hallway contained information about this as well as a display case of ceramics.  The main downstairs room, the 'New Dining Room' told us about his life.  He was a Freemason (who wasn't in those days?) and, like many of the great-and-good, a supporter of the Foundling Hospital.  In fact he served as a foster parent to some of the orphans who were put out to nurse in these salubrious country areas.

The room contained a statue of the artist at work, as well as a twentieth century cardboard diorama of Hogarth displaying one of his works to an appreciative audience.  He was a highly successful man, earning as much as £100 a week (at a time when a farm labourer might earning less than half a pound (9s) a year.  He realised that a single picture, however costly, could hardly make his fortune and so engraved many of his works to reach a wider audience. So the walls of the house have the complete set of the Rake's Progress, the Harlot's Progress, Marriage a la Mode and the Four Stages of Cruelty

Being made Serjeant Painter to George II probably also helped!

We learned about his wife, and the two sisters who were a key part of his life, though Anne died before the move to Chiswick.

Upstairs, the display of engravings on the walls continued, including less well known works, like the furious musician trying to teach against the noises of the street.  There was much else of interest as well.  In one corner was a closet with clothes on hooks as they might have been in his day.

One of the rooms was designated 'a private room' and it had an ingenious device enabling the occupant to bolt or unbolt the door without rising from chair or bed.

Throughout the house there was information about the other residents and the history of the House.  The top floor is not open to visitors, but we were told that it had suffered bomb damage during the Second World War

We made our way into the garden, which gad once been a serious kitchen garden and orchard;  an ancient mulberry tree survives, and we could get an impression of the shape of the house and the various additions which had been made, before heading back into the house.

The last room is rather different: During the nineteenth century, Thomas Layton lived in Brentford, and was a collector. I should really put the word in capitals since, by his death, he had collected over 22,000 books.  Some of his library, after a firm culling by the Borough's librarians, is now here, and is amazing.  He seems to have had broad interests, to put it mildly.  We saw The English Housewife's Household Physick, with treatments for many common and less common ailments; a 1631 edition of Foxe's Acts and Monuments, the Book of Martyrs which so shaped the Protestant view of the Catholic Church; a book about world-wide body adornments, from piercing to tattooing; a 1668 verse version of Aesop's Fables, and many others.

Returning through what had been the Hogarths' kitchen, with its trapdoor to the cellar, we paused briefly to admire the copy of the painting of Hogarth's servants (we have seen the original, which is in Tate Britain).  We also smiled wryly at Martin Rowson's depiction of the roundabout that has been given Hogarth's name.  All in all, we had spent a very pleasant hour in this cosy and interesting home.

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