This online exhibition explores William Hogarth’s engagement with topography, an important, if lesser-known aspect of his art. Topography is understood for this project in the broad definition provided in Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755): “Description of particular places.” First, a series of engraved illustrations that the artist produced in his mid-twenties for the Travels of the French explorer Aubry de La Motraye (1723) offers an opportunity to study his methods to represent territories he only visited through textual descriptions. Then the Five Days Peregrination (1732), an impromptu trip to Kent on which Hogarth embarked with four fellows to satirize the tradition of the Grand Tour as well as the practice of antiquarians in Britain, demonstrates his irreverential relationship with historical traces of the country’s past. Finally, Hogarth’s engraved frontispiece for Joshua Kirby’s influential treatise on perspective is read in the light of the longer tradition of perspective studies in Britain and contemporary debates about the respective roles of the eye and of mathematical rules in the representation of space.
Drawing primarily from the extensive collections of Hogarth’s graphic work at the Lewis Walpole Library and other Yale collections, Hogarth’s Topographies seeks to contribute to recent historiographic efforts that re-read Hogarth’s work in a more international perspective, most notably the “Hogarth and Europe” retrospective at Tate Britain (November 2022-March 2023), which stresses the necessity of approaching the artist’s work in the light of a broader European and global context that resonates in his production.