The Reading Room

The Artist as Reporter

The Artist as Reporter by Paul Hogarth….

In 1967 Studio Vista published the artist Paul Hogarth’s tenth book, The Artist as Reporter. Unlike previous and later works this is not a collection of Hogarth’s work but rather his look at the role of the artist in journalism throughout history.

A small format hardback of ninety six pages it begins with a look at twelfth century China before concentrating on the late 1800s onwards with works by French, German, Russian, British and American artists. The newspapers and other weekly publications of the time did, of course, carry many illustrations which gave the reader a far greater sense of what the story involved and Hogarth uses many examples from the likes of Punch, Harpers and the Illustrated London News which offer a wonderful reminder of Victorian life on both sides of the Atlantic.

The illustrated paper was a huge forward step and its introduction was slow and not without difficulties. Suitable artists were not easy to find and especially those who were prepared to drop their commissions and home life for a stint in a war zone. But eventually the press found the funds to hire artists on a permanent basis and soon began using all manner of disciplines from watercolourists to painters and ink specialists from varying backgrounds including military and topographical work, scientific expeditions and travel.

This was a rich period for the artist, photography was in its infancy and a long way from being a practical proposition in journalism. Artists began to develop ways to make speedy drawings on location and, more importantly know where to be in order to get the right illustration. Hogarth highlights how the pressures of modern day journalists equally applied to those pioneers whose success very much depended on copies of picture papers sold and their illustrations were crucial in capturing the public’s eye.

The emergence of the news photographer saw the competition between both disciplines really take hold during the Great War of 1914-1918 but the public preferred the artistic element of the painter and caricaturist. By the advent of World War Two newspaper and magazine editors had the sense to see the merits in both photograph and painting and how one could compliment the other. Paul Hogarth came to prominence during the Cold War of the mid fifties onwards and his forays into China and the Soviet Union provided a unique insight into a world seldom few photographers had managed to capture.

There are some wonderful illustrations featured in the book, for fans of Hogarth it offers an opportunity to discover those artists which had inspired him and shaped his journalistic career as well as an understanding of how the news was brought to the consumer. The artists featured are many and varied, from the most simple caricature to the more elaborate pieces by French artists from the late 1900s.

I love this book, if you are new to Paul Hogarth then I would recommend one of his other books but if the history of artists in journalism appeals then do try to find a copy. There is but one piece by the great man himself (opposite) taken from London a la Mode, his 1966 collaboration with the writer Malcolm Muggeridge and is a fitting finale to the book with its then modern theme.

For more information on Paul Hogarth including his bibliography and reviews of many of his books please click here

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