(b. 1697, London, d. 1764, London)
The Shrimp Girlc. 1740
Oil on canvas, 63,5 x 52,5 cm
National Gallery, London
Hogarth originally wanted to become a history painter, but this ambition seems to have been thwarted by a singular lack of interest on the part of his contemporaries. Posterity, too, has chosen to remember a very different Hogarth. He characterized the individual personalities of his sitters, revealed the unique within the typical, and in his tongue-in-cheek portrayals of human nature he documented the social mores of the age in areas beyond the sphere of the "historic" event. Then, as now, he was regarded as the painter of the private, the forgotten and the overlooked.
In the improvised composition of this oil sketch of The Shrimp Girl, we see Hogarth's painterly talent at its very finest. Here, he succeeds in creating a spontaneous reiteration of his observations with all the impact of a first impression. The freshness of the moment is not transposed here into a smooth painterly technique, but is echoed in the vigorous and fleeting brushwork.
This spontaneous and fresh study recalls the style of Frans Hals and it can be considered a precursor of Impressionism.