William hogarth

Scrawled outpourings of love and defiance

To come across dates and names carved into a choirstall or ancient tree is to experience a momentary frisson, a startled connection with the past. Yet this practice of making ‘unauthorised’ personal graphic statements in public spaces is often thought of as antisocial, something to be erased immediately. Unless of course they are by Banksy, whose spray-painted outpourings cost local councils a great deal to clean off before they came to be regarded as valid documents, articulating the thoughts and imaginings of the disaffected. In her ingenious new book Writing on the Wall, the art historian Madeleine Pelling has chosen to use these often transitory pieces of historical evidence as

How William Hogarth made Britain

Has any artist ever had a wider impact on the world than Hogarth? He was the motivator behind the most important legislation protecting artists’ copyright, meaning that artists from ordinary backgrounds no longer had to depend on the whims of rich patrons. Like Dickens, he used his art to laugh at and root out abuses — the proposals for electoral reform in the great ‘Humours of an Election’ series are as specific as satire ever gets (the haggling over the bribes, the man who somehow votes despite being dead). His early and energetic commitment to Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital did much to discourage the widespread practices of infant abandonment and