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First exhibition to explore the use of sound in William Hogarth's art is staged at London's Foundling Museum
William Hogarth, The March of the Guards to Finchley, 1750 © The Foundling Museum.

LONDON.- The Founding Museum is staging the first exhibition dedicated to the way William Hogarth (1697-1764) used sound in his art. Hogarth & The Art of Noise reveals Hogarth’s innovative use of sound, introducing audiences to a previously unexplored but important aspect of his art, and further cementing Hogarth’s legacy as the 18th century’s most original artist.

Famed for his social commentary, no painter before or since has made such overt use of sound as a way of communicating a narrative. Taking as its focus the artist’s masterpiece, The March of the Guards to Finchley, the exhibition unpacks the painting’s rich social, cultural and political commentary, from the Jacobite uprising and the situation for chimney boys, to the origins of God Save the King. Using sound, wall-based interpretation, engravings, and a specially-commissioned immersive soundscape by acclaimed musician and producer Martyn Ware, the exhibition will reveal how Hogarth orchestrated the natural and manmade sounds of London, to depict Britain in all its guises and capture the vibrancy and complexity of contemporary 18th-century life.

Hogarth’s enduring appeal lies in his ability to speak directly to the public; cutting through the noise of political propaganda, public outcry and daily life. As a painter, printmaker, satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist, his work addresses complex political, social and cultural challenges, while his wit, scepticism, empathy and intelligence engages audiences from all walks of life. From his fictional ‘modern moral subjects’ like A Rake’s Progress, to his depictions of current events as seen in The March of the Guards to Finchley, Hogarth treated London as a stage and its citizens as actors and audience for his rowdy dramas. The dynamic and vibrant nature of his art is evidenced by its translation for theatre, an artform Hogarth was passionate about and a world he immersed himself in. Hogarth’s love and understanding of theatre is shown in his paintings of leading actors and performances in progress, as well as his membership of The Sublime Society of Beef Steaks, founded by John Rich, the manager of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.

Hogarth was a great early supporter of the Foundling Hospital, encouraging leading artists of the day to donate work, thereby establishing the UK’s first public art gallery. Hogarth & The Art of Noise continues the Museum’s legacy of presenting a diverse programme of exhibitions that offer different ways of engaging with the Foundling Hospital story, from its artist supporters to life at the institution itself. The exhibition is supported by The 1739 Club.

A New Song (To An Old Tune)
Complementing the exhibition will be a display on the first floor of the Museum of work by contemporary British artist, Nicola Bealing. Using a mixture of print and painting, Bealing’s work takes as its starting point the subjects and narratives found within 18th century broadside ballads - descriptive or narrative songs on popular themes, often sung or sold in the form of cheap sheet music in the streets. Vibrant, bawdy, surreal and humorous in its nature, her work bears many similarities to that of Hogarth’s, an artist she cites as having inspired her.

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