An Election: 4. Chairing the Member (1754–1755)
by William Hogarth (1697–1764)
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimension: H 103 x W 131.8 cm
English painter, printmaker and social critic, Hogarth, presents a deliberately chaotic representation of the notoriously corrupt Oxfordshire election of 1754. Two newly elected (and contested) members of the Tory parliament are carried aloft in the chairs by the crowds. How many different kinds of people can you spot? Are there different ages, social classes, etc.? How has Hogarth presented a feeling of chaos?
Think carefully about how he has employed composition and movement, and even farm animals! He is commenting on the current affairs of his day – how many different human vices is he trying to depict? Perhaps the rather plump goose flying overhead represents greed. Is anyone in this country town overwhelmed by the sight and the sound of this cascading riot? You may need to look carefully for this one.
Hogarth said, '... my picture was my stage'. What other elements of this work could be described as theatrical? Hogarth turned to cartoon drawing and painting to express himself in the eighteenth century – what do we do today?