Dangerous Sketching: Hogarth at the Gate of Calais and other Artists Suspected of Spying
Dr. Ulrike Boskamp will speak about William Hogarth’s painting and print Gate of Calais (1748/49) as part of more pervasive narratives about artists accused of spying. According to Hogarth’s own testimony, his Gate of Calais, which includes a self-portrait observing and sketching the scene, is based on the occasion of his seizure by soldiers while visiting France. Hogarth’s arrest under suspicion of spying has most commonly been interpreted in the framework of biography as a unique and originally Hogarthian incident that is closely connected with the artist’s specific behavior, character and views. While the historic truth of spying accusations against artists can not seriously be doubted, these incidents acquire a specific literary shape when transmitted as biographical anecdotes. Dr. Boskamp, however, reconsiders the story of Hogarth’s arrest in a broader historical context wherein artists were regularly arrested as spies when travelling in foreign countries, especially near their borders. Her talk places the episode within pre-existing narratives about the arrest of other artists. She traces how Hogarth’s anecdote in particular circulated through contemporary and later texts and images and was commemorated, quoted, visualized, and even re-enacted by later artists.