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“Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth

"Canvassing for Votes" by William Hogarth

“Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth

“Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth is a print from a series of four oil paintings called “The Humours of an Election” that were later engraved, which illustrate the election of a member of parliament in Oxfordshire, England in 1754. The oil paintings were created in 1755. This print demonstrates the corruption endemic in parliamentary elections in the 18th century, before the Great Reform Act.

This scene depicts opposing political agents, both attempting to bribe an innkeeper to vote for their candidate. The composition includes a soldier on the left and two old sailors on the right represent uncorrupted patriotism. The soldier is looking out from the doorway which has a figurehead depicting the British lion devouring the French fleur-de-lis. A woman is sitting on it as she looks at her bribes. The sailors on the right are re-enacting a naval victory using pieces of broken clay pipe.

At this time each constituency elected two MPs, and there was a property qualification for voters, so only a minority of the male population was enfranchised. There was no secret ballot, so bribery and intimidation were rife. The original William Hogarth paintings are held by Sir John Soane’s Museum, London. This print was from an engraving by Charles Grignion in 1757.

William Hogarth

William Hogarth’s (1697 – 1764) works ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects”, perhaps best known to be his moral series.  In his youth, his father underwent periods of mixed fortune and was at one time imprisoned due to outstanding debts. Hogarth’s works are mostly satirical caricatures, and they became widely popular and mass-produced via prints in his lifetime, and he was by far the most significant English artist of his generation.

Charles Grignion, the Elder

This engraving was made by Charles Grignion (1721–1810) who was a British engraver and draughtsman who was born in London to Huguenot refugees. He was a prolific historical engraver and book illustrator. His son Charles Grignion the Younger, in turn, became a history and portrait painter

Reflections

  • Is Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.?
  • How has election corruption changed in the last 300 years?

Explore the Drawings and Prints Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Canvassing for Votes, Plate II: Four Prints of an Election

  • Title:            “Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth
  • Artist:           William Hogarth
  • Engraver:      Charles Grignion, I (British, 1721–1810)
  • Date:            1757
  • Culture:         British
  • Geography:   London England
  • Medium:       Etching and engraving; sixth state of six
  • Dimensions:  16 7/16 x 21 5/8 in. (41.7 x 55 cm)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

William Hogarth

  • Artist:            William Hogarth
  • Born:             1697 – London, England
  • Died:             1764 (aged 66) – London, England
  • Nationality:    English
  • Notable Works:

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“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
George Bernard Shaw

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Photo Credit: 1) William Hogarth [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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