William Hogarth’s The Enraged Musician: gritty glory

The English painter and satirist depicts a vision of vibrant cacophony that resonates more than two centuries later in the Brexit era

Bring the noise …

In this print from 1741, the professional violinist covers his ears, confronting a motley crew of street musicians: the ballad singer with her crying baby; the drummer boy; the oboe player, who, like the boy peeing, seems to be deliberately out to annoy the man at his window.

Natural woman …

A milkmaid looks straight at us, lifting her skirts above the muck. She is strikingly unlike the others, whose faces are contorted by drink, anger or idiocy. Her song, though, is lost amid the hubbub – and to the trained professional who closes his ears against the life of the street.

Keeping it real …

Hogarth argued for an art that looked not to idealised types but to life in all its gritty, gory glory, and this print could be read as an allegory of that position. Typically for the artist, the line between life and art is shown to be a shaky one.

Ringing in the new year …

This vision of vibrant cacophony is currently taking centre stage in a show of satirical prints, exploring its relevance in the Brexit era.

Prints of Darkness: Goya and Hogarth in a Time of European Turmoil, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, to 4 August

Contributor

Skye Sherwin

The GuardianTramp

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