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You are here: McMaster Museum of Art > Explore > Exhibitions > Additional info > THE "FLOATING" URBANITIES OF UTAMARO AND HOGARTH: Pictures for Women?

THE "FLOATING" URBANITIES OF UTAMARO AND HOGARTH: Pictures for Women?

Pictures for Women

August 23, 2011 - January 7, 2012

Guest Curator: Dr. Mark A. Cheetham

Public Reception: Thursday September 15, 6-8 pm

Curator's Talk by Mark A. Cheetham: Thursday October 13, at 6 pm

The famous printmakers and painters William Hogarth (1697-1764) and Kitagawa Utamaro (c.1753-1806) lived worlds apart. What little Hogarth knew of Asian art fell under the broad heading of Chinoiserie: lacquer, porcelain, and figurines popular in Britain since the East India Company traded out of Hirado, Japan c.1613-23. As late as the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London—almost a century after Hogarth's death—the specific qualities of Japanese art remained officially a subset of Chinese achievement. Utamaro was equally unaware of European art.

Art historians like to see verifiable aesthetic influence of the sort Japanese art so powerfully exercised on British artists beginning in the 1860s. That wasn't the relationship between Utamaro and Hogarth, but their remoteness can free us to consider connections other than those of cause and effect. Hogarth and Utamaro were strategically involved with the thriving commerce in prints in their respective metropolises and societies. Both struggled against competition and state censorship. We can also witness the unstable vicissitudes of two of the 18th century's most vibrant visual cultures in these artists' signature trade in images of women.

Both artists offered the many viewers of their prints infinitely intricate typologies of women and their activities. Hogarth mirrored the shifting social sands of London through endless anecdote. Utamaro construed Edo's visual culture of women more simply and subtly but with no less purpose. Seeing this work together, we may productively reverse common opinion that would contrast Utamaro's connoisseurial appreciation of women with Hogarth's overt moralizing.

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Mark A. Cheetham is a Professor of art history at the University of Toronto and an independent curator.

 

Related Links:

William Hogarth's London. Video (and transcript) of Robin Simon, the editor of The British Art Journal, speaking about Hogarth as part of the 2007 Visual Impressions of London lecture series at Gresham College.

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List of Works in Exhibition