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Members' Research Report Archive

Everywhere the Image of Life: William Hogarth’s Natural History

Elizabeth Athens, Research Associate, 2017–2018

32.35(22)

William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, plate 1 (detail), 1753. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932

This project considers the influence of William Hogarth’s The Analysis of Beauty (1753) on eighteenth-century scientific imaging. Though predominantly considered a work of aesthetics, The Analysis can be read as one of a series of texts that directed naturalists in recording the world, beginning with John Woodward’s seminal Brief Instructions on Making Observations (1696). Indeed, like other naturalists of his day, Hogarth deposited a copy of his publication with London’s Royal Society. By considering the treatise in this alternate light, the project highlights a mode of scientific imaging more dynamic and lively than the “plain” style generally attributed to eighteenth-century natural history.

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