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Modern moral subjects

George Grosz was inspired by William Hogarth but Grosz gets better treatment from the Royal Academy than Hogarth gets from the Tate, says Norbert Lynton

By Norbert Lynton   May 1997

Hogarth wanted to be an English painter of grand manner history subjects, breaking the foreigner’s monopoly in high art. But, no, he would not go to Rome where that manner was to be acquired. The Raphael cartoons were on hand, a high renaissance outstation on English soil. For the rest, engravings of great art would inform him. Reynolds, younger and more single-minded, went to Rome in 1750 for two years. By then, Hogarth had invented an alternative role for himself, painting narrative series of “modern moral subjects” (his friend Henry Fielding called them “comic history paintings”) and selling prints of…

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