Past Exhibitions

Hogarth’s Election Entertainment

Artists at the Hustings

An exhibition at Sir John Soane's Museum from 23 March - 25 August 2001

'Farewell , great painter of mankind'
David Garrick, epitaph to William Hogarth (1771)

This exhibition was generously supported by Private Eye

The four paintings that comprise Hogarth's An Election are unsurpassed both as works of art and as graphic observations of the corruption and folly of mankind. They are as pertinent today as in Hogarth's own time and have inspired generations of British artists working on satirical and political subjects. This exhibition brings the original paintings together with the very best of the successors - from the vicious caricatures of Thomas Rowlandson to the ebullient crowd scenes of Robert Dighton; from Benjamin Haydon's vast reworking of Chairing the Member to the scatological satires of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell. In what promises to be General Election year, this is an entertainment not to be missed.

Based on the notorious contest for the Oxfordshire seats in the General Election of 1754, William Hogarth's An Election paints a darkly comic view of the greed and corruptibility of mankind. The series is arguably the painter's finest achievement and represents a high point in British 18th-century art. The four paintings have hung in John Soane's Picture Room since their acquisition in 1823 and have influenced (and continue to influence) satirical and political engravings, paintings and cartoons to the present day.

Until now, it has not been possible to view Hogarth's series alongside the many inspired works. For this exhibition the finest descendants of An Election have been gathered from Galleries and Museums in Britain and abroad to hang with Hogarth's masterpiece in the Soane Gallery. Thomas Rowlandson's The Poll (1784); Robert Dighton's Westminster Election series (1784 - 96); Benjamin Haydon's monumental comic re-working of Chairing the Member (1828); George Cruikshank's A Radical Reformer (1818); George Caleb Bingham's The County Election (1854); Ronald Searle's 'The Candidate' (1954), and Steve Bell's Pant Burning (1997) are just some of the works on display.

Catalogue available from Museum shop