The Painter and his Pug

William Hogarth1745-01-01

Tate Britain

Tate Britain
London, United Kingdom

Hogarth first began this self-portrait in the mid-1730s. X-rays have revealed that, at this stage, it showed the artist in a formal coat and wig. Later, however, he changed these to the more informal cap and clothes seen here. The oval canvas containing Hogarth’s self-portrait appears propped up on volumes of Shakespeare, Swift and Milton, authors who inspired Hogarth’s own commitment to drama, satire and epic poetry. Hovering above the surface of his palette is the ‘Line of Beauty and Grace’, which underpinned Hogarth’s own theories on art. Hogarth’s pug dog, Trump, whose features resemble his, serves as an emblem of the artist’s own pugnacious character.


  • Title: The Painter and his Pug
  • Creator: William Hogarth
  • Date: 1745-01-01
  • Provenance: Purchased 1824
  • Physical Dimensions: 900 x 699 mm
  • Original Title: The Painter and his Pug
  • Additional Viewing Notes: This portrait, which developed over several years, is also Hogarth's public statement of his artistic beliefs. It represents the artist in a still-life assemblage, as if painted on an unframed oval canvas which rests on volumes of the three authors he admired most - Shakespeare, Swift and Milton. The implication is not only that he took his inspiration from drama, contemporary satire and epic poetry, but also that he saw the art of painting as their equal. In the left foreground lies his palette, bearing a representation of the three-dimensional serpentine ‘Line of Beauty and Grace’ (‘and Grace’ has been painted out, but is now clearly visible through the transparent overpaint), which Hogarth considered to be the fundamental principle of all artistic harmony and beauty. In the opposite corner, as if to contrast the reality of nature with theoretical abstraction, sits one of Hogarth's successive favourite pugs. In this case it is probably Trump, who, according to Samuel Ireland, was modelled, like his master, by Roubiliac in the early 1740s, ‘and for whom he had conceived a greater share of attachment than is usually bestowed on these domestic animals’. Hogarth was apparently fond of remarking on the resemblance between himself and his dog and probably saw in it something suggestive of his own notoriously pugnacious nature. Roubiliac's terracotta bust of Hogarth is now in the National Portrait Gallery; the model of Trump has been lost, but survives in Chelsea porcelain reproductions, including one in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The portrait was clearly painted with engraving in mind, and Hogarth used the engraving he made from it in 1749 as the frontispiece to bound copies of his engraved works. In the print the image is reversed, except for the scar on the forehead - reputedly received in youth and displayed with pride - which the artist has adjusted to remain on the correct side, over his right eyebrow. Also included in the foreground of the engraving is a burin to represent Hogarth's work as a graphic artist; this is absent in the painting, but X-rays show that originally a graving-tool, larger than that in the engraving, lay in front of the portrait on top of the pile of books. Another noticeable difference in the engraving are the blobs of paint on the palette, carefully graded from light to dark, of which there seems to be no trace in the original painting. These hark back to the similarly impastoed blobs of paint, shaded from white to bright red, on the palette of the unfinished self-portrait now in the Mellon collection at Yale, which is probably an abandoned earlier treatment of the same face-mask (the best, though incomplete, colour reproduction of this is in Webster 1979, frontispiece; also Beckett 1949, fig.40, and Paulson 1971, fig.170). As Hogarth was to explain later in his Analysis of Beauty, published in 1753 (Burke 1955, p.128) he saw the brilliant, clear colours represented by ‘firm red’ and white (because ‘nearest to light’) as equal in ‘value as to beauty’, and used a painter's palette of shaded blobs in plate 2 of the Analysis to expound his theories on tone and shade. The catalogue of the exhibition of restored paintings at the National Gallery in 1947 first noted the presence of numerous pentimenti, and in particular the wig which shows through the cap and the cheek near the ear. Recent X-rays carried out by the Courtauld Institute confirm that the painting began life as a much more conventional and gentlemanly representation of the artist, in which he wore a full wig, a flowing white cravat, and a coat and waistcoat with gold buttons. It also shows that a bunch of long brushes had originally been stuck through the thumbhole of the palette. The oval of the self-portrait had at one time been much smaller and drawn closer to the head: the sweeping zigzag brush-stroke with which Hogarth attempted to obliterate its upper right edge is clearly visible in raking light. A very exact picture of what this original smaller oval looked like can be had from an enamel miniature now in the National Portrait Gallery, which seems to coincide with the X-ray image in every particular. This miniature, of which two versions are known (another is with Edwin Bucher of Trogen, Switzerland), may be by Hogarth's friend and collaborator, the Swiss enameller André Rouquet (1701–58), and looks as if it may well have been copied from this portrait as it was in its earlier stage of development. The miniatures are neither signed nor dated, but the one in the Bucher collection is in a contemporary silver-gilt case which is engraved on the back ‘Wm. Hogarth|Painted by Zincke|1735’. Expert opinion on the whole now doubts the attribution to Zincke, and J.V. Murrell of the Victoria and Albert Museum has kindly suggested that the inscription looks stylistically later than 1735. However, he considers that the date could be an accurate record of the date the miniature was painted, and Rouquet, who worked in the style of Zincke, as a possible attribution. This would suggest that the Tate Gallery portrait could have been begun around this date: certainly the energetic handling of the wig as shown in the X-ray is very close to that of the unfinished self-portrait at Yale, which has always been considered an early work. One can only speculate as to the reasons why Hogarth changed his image in so radical a manner by 1745. One possibility is that his trip to Paris in May 1743 to recruit French engravers to work on the ‘Marriage A-la-Mode’ series confronted him with an artistic community that had a much better self-image than that in Britain. The confident pride of the French artists in their own status shows itself most clearly in the magnificent artists' portraits presented by engravers as diploma works for their reception into the French Académie. From 1704 these had to submit to the oeil-de-boeuf format, in which the engraver gave the portrait an elaborate three-dimensionally conceived surround that usually incorporated emblematic items like the artist's tools in the foreground. In the majority of cases the artists presented themselves not in conventional dress, but in casual artist's attire. While Hogarth may have been familiar with such morceaux de réception early in his career (and indeed the whole concept of his self-portrait suggests that he was), the trip may have given him the necessary jolt to prefer a more artistic image of himself over a gentlemanly one. Hogarth's conception of the ‘Line of Beauty’ was less firm at this stage than might appear from the portrait. When he elaborated the idea in his Analysis of Beauty a few years later, he defined the ‘Line of Beauty’ as a gently waving line in two dimensions, and the ‘Line of Grace’ as a three-dimensional serpentine line. In this portrait, as in the engraving after it, the line is clearly three-dimensional, but labelled the ‘Line of Beauty’. The fact that ‘and Grace’ has been painted out also suggests that Hogarth's ideas on this were still changing. He may have even included the line at this stage in order to provoke discussion, for in his preface to the Analysis he writes (apparently giving the wrong date) that ‘In the year 1745 [I] published a Frontispiece to my engraved Works, in which I drew a serpentine line lying on a Painter's pallet, with these words under it, “THE LINE OF BEAUTY”. The bait soon took; and no Egyptian Hieroglyphic ever amused more than it did for a time. Painters and Sculptors came to me, to know the meaning of it, being as much puzzled with it as other people, till it came to have some explanation.’ Clearly, like his image of himself, his theoretical views also shifted ground in later years, leaving a complex record of their development on this canvas. Published in: Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Tate
  • Medium: Oil paint on canvas

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