The Nude behind the Curtain: Hogarth and the Uses – and Abuses – of Art
By Dr Richard Stemp
Thursday 13th May 2021

In the background of one of the paintings from William Hogarth’s series Marriage A-la-Mode, the walls of a grand chamber are lined with paintings. A number of full-length saints, halos just visible, stand next to a painting covered by a curtain, from behind which a foot protrudes. This is clearly a nude and the painting is exhibited as they often were, unlike the subject of the work, appropriately clad. However, this would rarely have been in such a splendid setting, which is presumably a place to entertain one’s guests. So what does its presence tell us about the owners of this room?

Hogarth was a comic genius, fully aware of the power of art to inspire, to instruct, to chastise and to amuse. Starting with this abrupt contrast between a scantily clad foot and some upright saints, we will use the paintings depicted in this series, the greatest of Hogarth’s ‘modern moral subjects,’ to lead us through the scandal and intrigue of his melodrama, revelling in the many intricate details, jokes and barbs, until we reach the bitter denouement.

Please note this lecture in on a Thursday, not our normal Wednesday!

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