Hogarth Reconsidered

Hogarth's Aesthetics

The Analysis of Beauty [1753] Aesthetics, or the study of beauty and good taste, was an area of great contestation in the eighteenth century. Though known primarily for his satirical prints, Hogarth's membership in the St. Martin's Lane Academy guaranteed his familiarity with contemporary aesthetic discourses. With the publication of his theoretical treatise the Analysis of Beauty in 1753, Hogarth formally inserted himself into high-stakes contemporary debates on aesthetics. The Analysis of Beauty examines the ideal form of the serpentine Line of Beauty, tracing its visual and formal applications from mundane, everyday objects to classical sculpture. While other theoreticians concerned themselves with biographical examinations, moral evaluations or taught observational and mathematical skills, Hogarth focused upon the practical origins of beauty and elegance. Thus, while Hogarth conceived of his treatise as part of a lineage of aesthetic writing, he was equally invested in ensuring that the Analysis diverged from this trajectory: he wanted to make considerations of beauty accessible to any reader. The Analysis of Beauty was harshly criticized by a number of Hogarth's contemporaries. Many satirical prints attacked Hogarth's pretensions to present himself as a privileged authority of aesthetics. In addition, his Line of Beauty was considered ridiculously simplistic, and he was suspected of plagiarism. Likewise, Hogarth's recent ascent to "Serjeant Painter to the King" (in fact only a low-ranking position as copyist) was equated with his allegedly unoriginal, simpleminded aesthetic writing.

The Analysis of Beauty [1753]

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