Hogarth's Enthusiasm Delineated: Nachahmung als Kritik am Kennertum ; eine Werkanalyse : Zugleich ein Einblick in das sarkastisch-aufgeklarte Denken eines "Kunstlerrebellen" im englischen 18. Jahrhundert (review)
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Reviewed by
Bernd W. Krysmanski. Hogarth’s “Enthusiasm Delineated.” Nachahmung als Kritik am Kennertum. Eine Werkanalyse. Zugleich ein Einblick in das satirisch-aufgeklärte Denken eines “Künstlerrebellen” im englischen 18. Jahrhundert. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1996. 2 volumes. Pp. 894 + 575. 446 illustrations. DM 196.

In Hogarth’s “Enthusiasm Delineated” Bernd Krysmanski chooses an interdisciplinary approach to explore the famous engraver’s less famous engraving, which he nevertheless defines as the “artist’s manifesto.” The book, originally written as a dissertation, examines this one print against the background of eighteenth-century British cultural history and aesthetics at the same time as it provides a meticulously detailed conceptual and formal analysis of this work of art. Thus, the “archeological” part of the study investigates Hogarth’s social and cultural environment, whereas the analytical part covers iconological, structural, and art-historical aspects of the print. Such a fine-grained approach necessarily results in voluminousness. In his nearly 1,500 pages Krysmanski has achieved an impressive collection of facts and evidence on the making and meaning of Enthusiasm Delineated. He tries to determine the position of this print in Hogarth’s oeuvre, and aligns it typologically with a large number of canonical pictures. But the author’s preliminary notes also sound a useful warning to any reader who is not a Hogarth-aficionado, as the first, two-line sentence is followed by three pages of footnotes in very small print!

The first chapter, “Facing the Problem,” introduces the deliberately ekphrastic perspective of the study. Krysmanski emphasizes that it is his primary intention to show what [End Page 143] Hogarth had in mind with respect to his print. In art-historical terms, Krysmanski’s method is strongly indebted to the work of Frederick Antal and, in respect to the quest for a veiled meaning beneath the surface of the work of art, to that of Erwin Panofsky. In a time-honored German form of scholarly writing called “Exkurs” (there are altogether four of them in this book), chapter two investigates the print from within the framework of the eighteenth-century Anglican Church and its fight against Dissenters. For example, the author underlines that Anglican clergymen were considered boring performers, whereas Dissenting preachers very often became famous for their eloquence. This chapter further explores Hogarth’s reputedly agnostic point of view against a background of theological warfare. In the next chapter, “The Print’s First Layer of Meaning,” Krysmanski ponders the likelihood of the preacher being a representation of the celebrated—and invidious—Methodist George Whitefield and interprets the engraving as anti-Methodist satire. Perhaps the term “layer” is not quite appropriate here, as the fabric of allusions intricately woven by the author is made of threads whose ends often remain out of sight. For example, allusion does not just end with the compromise of the preacher as a zealous sectarian demagogue. As he loses his periwig in full action, he is denigrated again as a disguised Jesuit with a tonsured head. Thus, the web of allusions expands, paradoxically, into the dimension of anticatholic resentment.

The second half of the study is devoted to elucidating the multiple overt and covert meanings of the print in the context of European art and British aesthetics and it also offers an analysis of Enthusiasm Delineated in formal terms. Chapter four, alone numbering 465 pages, including two lengthy “Exkurse,” investigates “The Hidden Meaning of the Print,” accessible to, as Addison put it, “men of greater penetration.” In this respect, Enthusiasm Delineated is read as a cutting parody of canonical art. By borrowing his imagery from high art but using it in a “low” context, Krysmanski argues, Hogarth established an “anti-iconography” that served to ridicule the corrupt religious institutions of England. Thus, the preacher’s Godfather string-puppet obviously refers to a Raphael fresco and the horned and grinning Moses puppet hanging from the pulpit alludes to Michelangelo’s cenotaph for Pope Julius. According to the author, “anti-iconography” was also a means to pour scorn on the self-opinionated connoisseurs of art whom Hogarth despised: “The real but concealed meaning of the print,” Krysmanski concludes, can be discovered when one reads it as a...