Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Tate Boils it Down

The Tate Britain on the North Bank of the Thames in London is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon although I don't suppose anybody would put it at the top of the list of London museums.  A lot of the stuff (the Turners, the Constables, some of the grand portraits) are first-rate but there is a second cut that could easily disappear into storage.

But I think they win the prize in one category--clever, pithy, informative picture captions (or whatever you call those informational notes that hang beside the pictures).  Plenty of places settle for the artist's name, perhaps dates, and leave at that.  But here is a Tate comment, selected more or less at random.  The subject is a self-portrait by William Hogarth:
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 into 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 of art.  Hogarth's pug dog, Trump, whose features resemble his, serves as an emblem of the artist's own pugnacious character.
Now I ask you--is it possible to be any more pithy than that?  For a slightly expanded version of same, go here.

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