This is Hogarth's most ambitious portrait of children. He gives the figures in this large painting something of the same frank grandeur found in his portraits of adults, without losing a sense of childish gaiety.

The Grahams' father, Daniel, was Apothecary to the King. The seated boy plays a mechanical organ, as though accompanying the singing of the bird. The youngest child is sitting in a chair with a long handle, beside which is an elaborate basket of fruit.

However, the clock on the mantelpiece is decorated with the figure of Cupid holding a scythe and standing beside an hour-glass, symbols of death. Opposite, an animated cat has climbed the back of a chair and gazes at the caged bird. We know that the baby was dead when the portrait was painted, and this must account for the sombre references to mortality, at a time when many children died in infancy.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1697 - 1764
Full title
The Graham Children
Date made
1742
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
160.5 x 181 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit
Presented by Lord Duveen through The Art Fund, 1934
Inventory number
NG4756
Location in Gallery