Review of Paul Hogarth’s ‘Drawing People’…
The artist Paul Hogarth (1917-2001) was a prolific author and this, his thirteenth title first published in 1971 was his third ‘how to’ educational book. By the onset of the 1970s Hogarth was a well-established artist who had found fame through his original pieces in Cold War Europe, China, Russia and America as well as South Africa. He had a unique style which captured times and places in a way a photograph cannot. He drew predominantly on location, often in a crowd but seldom perturbed.
Some 160 pages long it is a fabulous collection of sketches taking in a host of subjects, as with so much of his work they range from the most simple to the deceptively complex and in portrait work Hogarth really came to the fore.
Each chapter concentrates on a singular aspect to drawing people, from the pens and paper he used to tips on how to feel comfortable drawing portraits in varying situations. He gives interesting anecdotes to his work, such as this, opposite, of the Irish author Brendan Behan with whom he collaborated on two books; Brendan Behan’s New York and Brendan Behan’s Island. Hogarth drew this at Behan’s cottage in Connemara and recalled: ‘Brendan was not the best of sitters, but the after effects of our feast of lobsters and champagne calmed his restless spirit’ Behan’s drinking was the stuff of legend which made Hogarth’s work all the more ‘interesting’ to complete in his presence.
Another of Hogarth’s famous collaborations was the wonderful Majorca Observed (1966) with the author Robert Graves. From that he includes this old woman from Deya; ‘peasant women in the frail splendour of old age, are often “naturals”. I drew this one silhouetted against the Mondrian-like tracery of the front door of her house, drawn in about an hour with a 7B pencil’
Hogarth drew people from all walks of life, from the ghetto women of South Africa to the wealthiest in American society and everyone in between. People, like history and architecture fascinated him and he left behind a treasure trove of portraits which captured the middle part of a fascinating twentieth century.
Much of the artist’s work features a country he loved, the United States. In 1968 he was visiting professor at Philadelphia College of Art and he produced a beautiful trilogy of books featuring heritage buildings and walking tours in Philadelphia, Boston and Washington. There is a fascinating piece in the book about the time he spent with the New York City police department in 1965. Opposite is a sketch of an interview with a sixty year old forger at the 16th Precinct Station, the man would go on to serve life. On the Lower East Side Hogarth recalled one particularly distressing moment: ‘Perhaps the most pathetic scene I saw, which also illustrated the main point of Fortune’s investigation, occurred at the 9th Precinct Station where a terribly distraught Puerto Rican widow whose apartment had been broken into, had run to ask the protection of a solitary overworked station officer. “There’s no one here to protect you, lady” he told her’
‘Carousing crowds at the bearbaiting’ (1964) for Life Magazine and their special Shakespeare piece which he produced eight pages of paintings for, it shows Hogarth’s ability to catch a moment, the faces all tell their own story in what is clearly a distressing scene for a magnificent animal yet Hogarth still captures it in his capacity as a reportage artist and rightly so. It was typical of the man to show his audience life from distant lands and in the era before a billion Instagram photographs, this was all the more essential. Great art, like a photograph can speak a thousand words, Hogarth’s art was accessible and educational and for those on the west side of the Iron Curtain it was a porthole like no other. Hogarth was commissioned a number of times for the major American magazines of the sixties such as Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated which were famous for their photographic work, particularly in Life.
Hogarth loved good food and wine and so it is no surprise that one chapter is dedicated to drawing people in bars. Some of his best ‘group’ scenes are those set in the bars of Ireland, London and America. Hogarth tells the reader to observe basic bar etiquette, a sensible precaution given some of the haunts he visited. I love these drawings, they hark back to a golden era for the public house, when they were places to drink and be merry, where characters roamed and conviviality abound. We lost much when the bars became eateries with ‘2 for 1’ and ‘kids go free’, it was a space for conversation and escapism from the week’s labour and Hogarth captures the characters which were the very essence of the pub scene. It’s quite depressing actually. This drawing was of folk singers at the Abbey Tavern in Howth, Ireland in 1969, one can easily imagine the beer flowing that night.
Crowd scenes came easily to Hogarth, he describes taking two friends along to the legendary London nightclub Annabel’s to sandwich him in whilst he sneakily sketched a bar scene. The book contains a useful chapter on getting the best from a multi-person scene and he describes being in Warsaw in 1956 as the Polish took to the streets in solidarity with their fellow suffering Hungarian neighbours during Khrushchev’s post-Stalin reign.
Opposite is a reminder of happier times; Riis Park in New York in 1963. Hogarth recalls how, one September afternoon he built the picture up over two hours of continual movement of people of all shapes and sizes. He states that drawing on a beach is more impersonal and nobody asks you questions. I would have thought that would have been the opposite!
Drawing People is not an easy title to find, it is a glorious collection of some of his finest sketches as well as an invaluable resource for amateur (and professional) artists wishing to develop their skills. For the non-artist there is still plenty here, historical content abounds and once again Hogarth shows why he was the master at descriptive graphic art.
For more information on Paul Hogarth’s life and books please click here or on the categories section
Categories: Paul Hogarth, The Reading Room
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