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William Hogarth, The Graham Children

Key facts
Full title The Graham Children
Artist William Hogarth
Artist dates 1697 - 1764
Date made 1742
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 160.5 × 181 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Lord Duveen through the Art Fund, 1934
Inventory number NG4756
Location Room 34
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Graham Children
William Hogarth

These are the four Graham children. Their father was Royal Apothecary to George I and George II. Thomas, in his gilded baby carriage adorned with a bird, had already died when Hogarth was working on the picture. The crossed carnations (funeral flowers) beside him are a tender reminder of death. A table-clock surmounted by a winged cherub holding an hour-glass and scythe shows the time as 1.45pm, perhaps the hour Thomas died.

Seated beneath a goldfinch in a gilded cage, Richard Robert plays a bird organ and Anna Maria starts dancing. The cat startles the goldfinch by scrambling with its claws up the back of the chair in the same way that death suddenly snatched the youngest Graham child. Henrietta, the eldest, dangles cherries, the ‘fruit of paradise’ before baby Thomas, who reaches out to grasp them. Hogarth captures the transience of childhood and of life itself.

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